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Embrace the Stress

By stress junkie ·
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The realities of contract employment

by stress junkie In reply to Embrace the Stress

There are several posts of mine that I thought were particularly
insightful and potentially useful to others. Here are some of my posts
about contract employment versus direct employment.<br />
<br /><a href="http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-11181-0.html?forumID=6&threadID=183030&messageID=1866927">
Personality of a contractor</a><br />
<br /><a href="http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-11181-0.html?forumID=6&threadID=183030&messageID=1867286">
Financial planning for contractors</a><br />
<br />

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The realities of contract employment

by jmgarvin In reply to The realities of contract ...

<p>Anymore I think financial planning for contractors is the "put your head between your legs" approach.  I'm out of the contracting world because of the stress and the "you don't belong" here feeling(s).  </p>
<p>To be a contract not only do you need thick skin, but a LOT of extra time on your hands.</p>

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The realities of contract employment

by stress junkie In reply to The realities of contract ...

Yes contract employment is stressful. If you want to be successful in
contract employment for a long time then you have to embrace the stress
and learn to love it. This is where I got the idea my TR moniker and
for the title of my blog.<br />
<br />
Financial planning isn't that difficult but it requires that you
completely reject "the American way" lifestyle. Eliminate debt,
reduce your monthly financial obligations, and save most of your paycheck in a bank where it is safe. Where I live, in
Massachusetts, USA, single bedroom apartments are renting for
$1,000/month. Seven years ago I purchased an old mobile home for $20,000. My
park rent is $330/month. The house has paid for itself compared to the
cost of renting an apartment plus I can sell the house when I'm able to
purchase "real" property. Living in a mobile home puts a bit of a
damper on dating though. Women are impressed, negatively.<br />
<br />
As far as the outsider feeling is concerned once Digital Equipment Corp when out of
business the rest of my contract employment experience was about half
outsider and half savior. Digital Equipment Corp was a living **** for
contract employees because they had a culture of hating contractors.
I'm convinced that this was encouraged by management to keep direct
employees from blaming managers for the low pay of the workers.
However, except for DEC, contract clients were just as likely to have
the attitude of "Thank God you're finally here!" when you started work.
I had one place say that they had upgraded their requirements for a
directly employed system administrator based on the job that I was
doing for them. That was nice. Then they got bent out of shape when I
declined a job offer from the same place. HAH!!! They got REALLY bent
out of shape when I wouldn't give them my home phone number. HAH
again!!! I never gave my home phone number to any contract client. I
also had my home phone number listed under my mother's maiden name so
that clients couldn't look me up.<br />
<br />
On a different subject, I wonder if the posts that I've referenced will
remain available for viewing or if I should copy them to my blog? If
the articles are taken off line for archiving then my little blog will
become useless. On the other hand if I copy the text to my blog then it
will lose its "headline" format. Maybe I should use the first blog post
as a table of contents with hyperlinks to the other posts in the blog.<br />

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Computer security

by stress junkie In reply to Embrace the Stress

<a href="http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-11193-0.html?forumID=4&threadID=184445&messageID=1883130">Transmitting data over the Internet</a><br />
<br />

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Codeweavers Crossover Office 5.0 trials on Linux

by stress junkie In reply to Embrace the Stress

I purchased the student edition of Microsoft Office 2003 back at the
beginning of this year. I found that Wine and Crossover Office 4.2
would not run this version of MS Office. So I've been waiting for about
ten months for the new version of Crossover Office.<br />
<br />
For those who don't already know this, Wine and Crossover Office are
products that enable you to run Microsoft platform applications on a
Linux machine. Wine is available from winehq.org and Crossover Office
is available at codeweavers.com. The two products are created in
cooperation with each other in the same way that Sun Microsystems works
on it's Star Office product and cooperates with OpenOffice.org. There's
another enabler for MS software on Linux made by Transgaming Technology
called Cedega. It is available from transgaming.com.<br />
<br />
Today I downloaded the 30 day trial version of Crossover Office 5.0
from codeweavers.com. Once I installed it I tried to install Microsoft
Office 2003. After one false start where in invoked the wine excutable
to install Office, and one false error message during the installation,
the software was finally installed.<br />
<br />
Then the moment of truth. I tried to start Microsoft Office 2003 using
Crossover Office. I couldn't find the executable to start the office
shell but I did find the executables for each of the applications.<br />
<br />
I started MS Excel. I receive Excel spreadsheets via email from my
stock broker every week. I've never been able to view these properly
because I couldn't find a FOSS spreadsheet that would display these
Excel v5.0/Office 98 formatted files. So I opened up the
honest-to-goodness-genuine Excel and tried to display one of the XLS
files from my stock broker.<br />
<br />
The first thing that happened was that the spreadsheet was displayed in
reasonable looking format on the screen for the first time. That was
great. Then I got a message saying that the file included macros and
that I would have to lower the default security setting of Excel in
order to run the macros. So I did that and I closed and reopened the
XLS file. I then got a message saying that the specified macros could
not be found. Rats.<br />
<br />
I started to look around. I knew that the file contained several
worksheets but I could only see one spreadsheet. I checked the Excel
format menu and found that I could unhide four other worksheets. When I
did that I could finally see the data that I had never been able to see
before.<br />
<br />
Although I cannot find or run the macros that the stock broker has
apparently set to execute I was able to see the data on all of the
worksheets in the file correctly for the first time in all the years
that I've been receiving these files. I've got about three years of
files which were sent once a week. So that's about 150 XLS files worth
of data about the performance of my stocks. Now all I have to do is to
export the data from Excel to ASCII and then import the data into a
FOSS spreadsheet. OH WAIT. NO I DON'T. I can run real Excel under Linux
now. I can do all of the data analysis that anyone else using Office
2003 is able to do.<br />
<br />
Yay!!!<br />
<br />
I'm a happy boy.<br />
<br />
One unexpected benefit. The student edition of Office 2003 includes
Microsoft Outlook. I don't plan to use it but it could be useful to
anyone that wants to try Linux but keep using their Microsoft
applications. You probably don't need to purchase the enterprise
edition of Office 2003. The student edition looks pretty comprehensive.
Unfortunately the license for this version of Office 2003 prohibits
using this version in a commercial setting.<br />

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Codeweavers Crossover Office 5.0 trials on Linux

by dank In reply to Codeweavers Crossover Off ...

Hi Stress Junkie,<br />
you didn't mention which version of OpenOffice<br />
couldn't open your spreadsheets properly.<br />
If it was OpenOffice 2.0 (which is pretty good), <br />
have you filed a bug report with them yet?<br />
If not, send me one of the spreadsheets (suitably<br />
sanitized) and if I can reproduce the problem,<br />
I'll file it for you...<br />
Thanks!<br />
- Dan<br />
<br />

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Codeweavers Crossover Office 5.0 trials on Linux

by stress junkie In reply to Codeweavers Crossover Off ...

I think that you misunderstood my mention of OOo in the post. I only
mention OOo in relation to Sun Microsystems' Star Office. I did this to
illustrate the relationship between Codeweavers and Wine.<br />
<br />
That said I do admit that the OOo spreadsheet was one of the FOSS
applications that I had used to try to read these spreadsheets. The
last OOo that I used was 1.9m144. I haven't tried 2.0 yet. I'll
give it a try. Mind you the spreadsheets that I'm recieving may be
faulty. I know that they are formatted in an old version of Excel. I
don't get very many spreadsheets from anyone. Now that I've got
Crossover Office I can use real genuine Excel to create files and then
test them with the FOSS software. Unfortunately I am NOT an Excel power
user. I've never even created a macro or a pie chart or anything more
complicated than a list.<br />
<br />
I'll try OOo 2.0 and post the results here. Thanks for your interest.<br />
<br />
One thing that I have to do is to try Office 2003 on a Microsoft
platform. I cannot tell if the failure of Excel to read these
spreadsheets is due to the spreadsheets being faulty or if it is a
problem with running Excel on Crossover Office.<br />

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Installing OpenSuSE Linux v10.1

by stress junkie In reply to Embrace the Stress

I've been using SuSE Linux for quite a few years now. I have always purchased my copies of SuSE Linux because I believe in financially supporting the various Linux distribution projects. For me, the value of Linux isn't due to it being available for free. The value of Linux is in it being a work alike clone of Unix. I had purchased SuSE Linux v9.0, v9.1, and v9.2. I skipped versions 9.3 and 10.0. I was very happy using v9.2 but I had read a couple of very flattering reviews of v10.1 regarding performance and "Vista-like" graphic effects so I figured I'd give it a try. I wanted to keep my test/Internet machine dual boot so that I could continue to use v9.2. This resulted in me installing SuSE Linux v10.1 over my Debian Sarge installation. Goodbye Debian. I won't miss you at all.<br /><br />My test machine is a home built beauty that I've had for several years. The motherboard has a VIA KT333 chipset. The CPU is an AMD Athlon XP 2100+. I have two Corsair memory boards providing a total of 1 gigabyte of RAM. I have a bunch of hard disks attached to this system. They are all ATA 133. The graphic card is an ATI Radeon 8500 All In Wonder. I put this system together when the Radeon card was the latest and hottest card available. That alone tells you that this machine is about 5 years old. This is my Internet access machine. It is also my main test machine. The result is that if a test causes a catastrophic failure I am off the net until I fix it. That helps me to avoid putting a troubled machine on the shelf and forgetting it. I have to get this bugger running if I'm going to read my email ever again. :-)<br /><br />First I downloaded and ran the live DVD. It worked. That is a good sign so I decided to download and install the 5 CD installation software.<br /><br />Obtaining the installation kit was easy but time consuming. I have a broadband ISP connection but the SuSE servers throttle the speed of your download. I used the download manager incorporated in Firefox. I think it's great. I reduced the overall download time of the entire kit by simultaneously downloading all 5 CDs. Each download stream was running about the same speed as had the one single download of a single CD so I had effectively sped up the download by 5 times. It still required about 5 hours to obtain all of the CD iso files. Once I had all of the iso files I checked their integrity by comparing the MD5 sum against the checksum on the SuSE server, and then I burned the images onto CD-RW disks.<br /><br />The installation was simpler than previous SuSE Linux installations. The reviews that I had read were correct. There were few questions to answer. Although OpenSuSE Linux v10.1 defaults to using the Gnome desktop I wanted to use KDE. There was a question during the installation where I checked KDE for the default desktop environment. The installation requires a reboot in the middle of the procedure but it fails to tell you to remove the installation CD from the drive before it boots. That was typical of previous SuSE installation procedures. Otherwise the entire installation was very simple and easy. In addition to choosing KDE as my desktop software I also chose run level 3 as my default run level. Unix administrators know that run level 3 means that you have a text console when the system finishes booting. You log on to a console that looks just like an MS-DOS screen, then you start the X graphic software by issuing the 'startx' command. Having a text console is good for troubleshooting since you can tell what problems are related to Linux and what problems are related to the X graphic software. If you experiment a lot as do I then having your system running at run level 3 can be very helpful. My testing sometimes hangs the X software. If your system is running at run level 3 you can restart the graphic environment without having to reboot the operating system. So I like having run level 3 as my default.<br /><br />Once the new operating system was installed and had rebooted I was eager ( Not anxious, people. Eager. Get it right or stop talking altogether.) to try the new system. I logged in to the normal user account, fired up Firefox, and started to surf the web. THE PERFORMANCE WAS HORRIBLE!!! Trying to scroll down a web page took a very long time. The Firefox window would update so slowly that you could see the update line across the window moving down the display. It took about five seconds to update the window each time that I clicked on the scroll bar on the side of the window. The scroll slider on the side of the window would only move in small increments and then wait while the horizontal screen update line moved from the top of the Firefox window to the bottom. I found that this horrible behavior also affected all other GUI applications. Since my machine runs at run level 3 I was able to stop the graphic environment software and test the Linux performance separately from the X software. I stress tested the Linux system with the console in text mode. I found that it appeared to run very fast. So, it looked like my problems were related to the X software.<br /><br />I already had the ATI card driver installation kit on the machine from when I had installed the driver on the SuSE v9.2 system. I decided to see if my performance problems would be fixed by installing the ATI drivers. I installed the drivers, shut down the machine, waited a few seconds, and powered up the machine. (I always power cycle the machine when I'm changing drivers for any hardware.) When I logged on the graphic performance was EXCELLENT!!! I haven't experienced such a dramatic improvement in performance since I was running DEC VAX computers. (I'm a VAX/VMS performance tuning super guru.)<br /><br />The ATI graphic drivers saved the day. The only problem that I had with the ATI driver installation was that the aticonfig utility had put restrictive permissions on the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. This is due to my umask. I put a umask of 077 on my user accounts via the system login file /etc/bash.bashrc.local. So I found that the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file was owned by root:root with permisisons of 600. I changed that so that the file is owned by root:users with the permission setting of 640.<br /><br />I then uninstalled the version of Firefox and of OpenOffice.org that came with OpenSuSE. I had already obtained the installation kit for both while I was still using the v9.2 system. I installed these software kits and tested them out. The Firefox software updated the screen as fast as you would hope, which means instantaneously. It was back to being a pleasure to use. The real unexpected benefit was that the OpenOffice.org software runs A LOT FASTER than it had on SuSE v9.2. It starts faster, opens windows faster, and basically behaves much better than it had on SuSE v9.2. People who have used OpenOffice.org software are aware that it tends to run a bit sluggishly. Since I decided some time ago to only use OpenOffice.org software for documenation I am very happy to see it perk up.<br /><br />There were a couple of things related to KDE that I had to do to preserve my dual boot capability. I will document these problems and their solutions in my next blog post.

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Problems with OpenSuSE Linux v10.1

by stress junkie In reply to Embrace the Stress

Okay. So let's talk about installation problems that I experienced using OpenSuSE Linux v10.1. There are several right out of the box and they are very irritating. I already talked about the horrific graphic performance that I had experienced using my ATI Radeon 8500 AIW card and I described a solution. (See my previous blog post regarding the installation of the operating system). That was a fix rather than a workaround. Fixes are good insofar as you can overcome them. Workarounds are a bother because they reflect a product deficiency that cannot be fixed.<br /><br /><strong>The user space Network Manager:</strong><br />I don't know what the heck this is supposed to be. When I installed v10.1 this software was enabled in lieu of traditional "ifup" network configuration. Guess what. The network did not start automatically when I started the operating system. After looking around for a while in YaST I found this setting. I changed the network configuration control back to the "ifup" configuration, rebooted, and the network software worked fine.<br /><br /><strong>KDE v3.5.1:</strong><br />As I mentioned in my previous post the overall graphic interface performance is excellent <strong><em>after you fix it</em></strong>. There are two performance specs that I have not been able to fix, though. These are the graphical package startup and shutdown. I mentioned in my previous Open SuSE v10.1 post that I run my systems at run level 3 by default. Traditional Unix configuration definitions describe run level 3 as a fully configured and running system with the console using text mode. This means that when I start my system or when I log out the console looks like a normal textual terminal. I log in and start the X software manually using the "startx" command. I have several good reasons for configuring my systems like this which I may discuss in a future post. Initially. <br /><br />KDE takes a very long time to start. I'm talking about waiting about 90 seconds from the time that I issue the "startx" command to the time that I can start to use the graphical desktop. The strange this is that the more you log off and on, restarting the X software each time, the less time that KDE takes to start. Right now it is taking about 2 seconds to see the fully configured desktop environment ready to use. Yes! 2 seconds! This may have something to do with the way that I reconfigure the environment but there may be more mysterious forces at work as well. I don't know. The bottom line is that KDE starts faster and faster over time. I am <strong><em>NOT</em></strong> loading a wallpaper image and I have configured KDE to <em><strong>NOT</strong></em> show desktop icons.<br /><br />The other performance problem with KDE v3.5.1 is the time that it takes to shut down. Again, I have managed to shave some of the time off of this function but it still takes about 45 seconds from the time that I issue the command to stop the software to the time that I have a command line prompt on the console.<br /><br />The one thing that I did to speed up the shutdown process is to configure KDE to <strong><em>NOT</em></strong> run the sound system daemon. I found with previous versions of KDE and with this version that the arts sound system daemon would often not stop at all when I shut down the KDE environment. This has been a problem for me in the past because the arts sound daemon would have a lock on the /home partition. This would hang system shutdowns. I would have to see what process(es) were using the /home partition and kill them before the partition would unmount. Configuring KDE to <strong><em>NOT</em></strong> run the sound system daemon fixed this problem. Note that all of the system sound functions still work fine after I configure the sound system daemon to <em><strong>NOT</strong></em> start when I start KDE. I can listen to music. Web site sounds still work. Everything associated with system sounds still work fine. I have no idea why KDE wants to create a sound system daemon. As far as I can tell it has no benefit.<br /><br /><strong>YaST problems:</strong><br />The problems associated with the version of YaST that ships with OpenSuSE v10.1 are numerous. This is in stark contrast to previous versions, at least in my experience.<br /><br />The first problem with this version of YaST is that it is very very slow. Everything takes a long time. Opening a window for any given function takes a long time. Advancing from one step to another while performing any given function takes a long time. This wasn't a problem in previous versions of YaST.<br /><br />The next problem with YaST is that it cannot install software from the installation CDs after you have already installed the operating system. In other words, you can install any and all applications on the CDs during the installation of the operating system, but you cannot install applications once the operating system installation is finished. I never experienced this problem before, but that may be due to the fact that previous versions of SuSE would install all of the available software on the CDs during the operating system installation by default. This version of SuSE does not install very much software at all during the installation of the operating system unless you explicitely select the other available packages while you are installing the operating system. This problem required me to reinstall the whole operating system in order to have the applications and other software that I want. The OpenSuSE v10.1 default installation doesn't even include installing gcc or the kernel sources! So, if you are going to install OpenSuSE v10.1 you really need to install all of the other available software on the CDs when you install the operating system. You will not be able to install these packages later. Remember, it is easy to remove applications. It is impossible to add them from the installation CDs once the operating system is installed and running.<br /><br />This problem of being unable to install software packages from the installation CDs after the operating system is running may not be a new problem. My research shows that people have experienced this problem for years. The problem arises due to devices being renamed after the operating system is running. The installation procedure may see the installation source device as /dev/hdc but once your operating system is running it may only accept installation sources from /dev/sr0 or something like that. This problem is reportedly due to having the SCSI device drivers running during normal operation but not during the installation. This problem is made permanent by the fact that the YaST software will not allow you to redefine the source device for installing software. So this really involves two problems; one problem is created by device names being reassigned after the operating system is running and the second problem is that you cannot reassign or create new installation source devices for YaST.<br /><br />Note that this problem only affects the ability to install new sofware packages or to use CDs to manage software packages. The YaST Online Update (YOU) function still works. You can easily and reliably install available patches made available by Novell.<br /><br /><strong>Comment:</strong><br />I am very disappointed in Novell. Numerous free Linux distributions have robust software package manager software. Gentoo has emerge. Red Hat has yum. Debian has apt. All of these software package managers work very well. Novell has two serious problems with thieir software package management software. First, it is broken as described above. Second, SuSE has never had an on line package repository. The Debian, Gentoo, and other distributions have wonderful software package repositories. You can browse the available package list via the web. You can see excellent descriptions of what each package does. These software repositories have numerous packages available for each version of the distribution. Not so with Novell SuSE.<br /><br />The Novell SuSE web site stinks. It is poorly designed. It doesn't have the information that you want. There is no link on the Novell web site pointing to the Open SuSE web site. So you can end up spending a lot of time on the Novell web site looking for support for Open SuSE before you realise that it just isn't there. You have to use a web search engine to discover that there is a separate web site to support Open SuSE. (en.opensuse.org). Then even that web site has very little useful information. Novell totally stinks when it comes to web based support. Stinks. Stinks. Stinks.<br /><br />I will add more problem descriptions here as I remember them. I have been playing with Open SuSE for a couple of days now and I'm not sure that I remember every problem that I encountered. However this particular blog post is only going to show problems that I encounted with the installation and initial system configuration. This will not become a list of problems that I encounter in the future, if any.<br /><br />I want to emphasise that although I have experienced a few irritating problems installing and configuring Novell Open SuSE Linux v10.1 I am still an enthusiastic advocate of this software. I have found that this system runs very very fast. I don't know if it is due to the fact that it uses the v2.6.16 kernel or if there is a combination of factors producing the excellent performance. I will say that my Gentoo system does <strong><em>NOT</em></strong> run as fast as this system even though the Gentoo system has a slightly faster CPU. Overall I'm very happy with Open SuSE Linux v10.1.

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More problems with Open SuSE Linux v10.1

by stress junkie In reply to Embrace the Stress

This post will explain two flaws with Novell Open SuSE Linux v10.1 which I have not yet mentioned. Since the previous "problems" post was getting lengthy I decided to create this new post.<br /><br /><strong>IPv6 is enabled by default:</strong><br />The first problem that I have noticed is one that I experienced with Novell SuSE v9.2. The problem is that the IPv6 protocol is enabled by default. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the meaning of the previous sentence I will just say that IPv6 is the next generation of network protocol for the Internet. Having said that, I will also say that there is no reason for your average, every day computer to run IPv6. This new protocol only has value to ISPs who connect to other ISPs. The normal Internet client computer has no reason to run it.<br /><br />I discovered that my machine was running this protocol while I was watching network traffic using Ethereal. You can tell if your machine is using IPv6 because all of your name resolution requests are first sent as IPv6 requests, otherwise known as AAAA requests. When this fails then your machine will send the same name resolution request using IPv4, otherwise known as an A request.<br /><br />So why should we care if we are sending name resolution requests to our ISPs that will never be answered? Well, one problem that the Internet infrastructure is experiencing is a huge number of bogus name resolution requests from improperly configured machines. This is becoming enough of a problem that we might soon experience delays in data transmission as the root Internet servers are overwhelmed with bogus name resolution requests. We have a social obligation to ensure that our own machines are configured properly. Another reason to get rid of IPv6 on your computer is performance. You wouldn't believe how many name resolution requests are made by your computer to your ISP in the normal course of loading a single web page. If you are using IPv6 then all of your name resolution requests will take twice as long as they should take because you have to make two requests for every name resolution. You may or may not notice the difference in performance. If you care about getting the most performance possible out of your machine then you want to reduce or eliminate unnecessary operations wherever you find them.<br /><br />The way to fix this problem is to edit the file /etc/protocols. You have to find all of the lines that provide some part of the IPv6 service and comment them out with a # at the beginning of the line. Then you can restart your network, run Ethereal, start it capturing packets, ping your ISP's main web page server, and see if you have any AAAA name resolution requests. You should not see any. You should only see A requests.<br /><br /><strong>Kernel compiler error:</strong><br />The next problem that I experienced was a failure to recompile the kernel. Yes. Can you believe it? I've only been running this system for a few days and I'm already recompiling the kernel. Or, I should say, I have unsuccessfully attempted to recompile the kernel. The reason that I did this was that one of my favorite data encryption packages is run as a module. I use this encryption all of the time so I wanted to compile it into the kernel. Well, when I ran make menuconfig and selected the encryption package to be included into the kernel image rather than run as a module the subsequent make operation failed. The error message indicated that it was the change that I had made that had caused the compiler to fail. The result is that I did not create a new kernel and I am still loading my encryption software as a module rather than having it included in the kernel image. Rats!!!<br /><br />I suppose that I could download the same version of the kernel sources from kernel.org and see if that would compile. I could do that but there is a limit to my enthusiasm, and that limit has been reached regarding recompiling the kernel. I will just wait until Novell upgrades the kernel to the next minor version of 2.6.16 and see if those sources compile better. I'll go over to my Gentoo machine now and recompile the kernel there, just because I can. :-)

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