Sunday, March 28, 2004

IRC and MUD Style Bug Repair Journal
* ray enters #thegarage *
ray> Whaassup!!
* ray wields themotherfucker *
* ray set's mode -bolt on channel #heater
* ray set's mode -bolt on channel #heater
* ray set's mode -bolt on channel #heater
ray> Fuck!
* ray drops themotherfucker *
* ray wields vicegrips *
* ray strikes bolt doing 4 damage *
* ray leaves east *
You begin to feel hungry.
* ray arrives from east *
ray> Word! Time to clean up!

Bug Repair Translated
It was a good day to work on the Bug. It was really warm outside, so after some grocery shopping I brought up the garage door a little bit and went to work on the heater channels. One of my first moves was to give some support to the center of the car. Not really for the car itself. The chassis is suspended in air, and the upper body can hold its own. Yet, I wanted to be able to sit my fat ass inside the car and not worry about falling through (ouch). So as you can see here, I pumped up the 10 ton jack with a long 2 X 4 wedged on top. It worked nicely and gave my fat ass some confidence when leaning and sitting inside.

Getting the bolts out of the floor pan was a chore. I expected it to be pretty bad. As I tried twisting out the bolts, the nut-like pieces that are welded into the heater channel were breaking free and rotating inside. I wonder how many others out there have tried a job like this, and had the same problem.

Thank God I had a pair of vice-grips. My wife talked me into buying a pair for $4 at Odd Lots when we were out shopping this past weekend. I was able to peel back the heater channel inside the car like a ripe banana, and then put the grips onto the broken nut-like pieces. All the while I was grabbing onto chunks of 'stuff' and tossing it into a pile. The floor pans and some of the heater channel is still on the car. The rest is in a pile here below.

While laying under the car I glanced up at the door and noticed some wear on the bottom of it. This is definitely from opening and closing the door under pressure from the weight of the car. Without the heater channel supporting the lower part of the body, the whole car sinks on the left.

I also chipped away some more of the area behind the left tire well. Under the riveted aluminum I found some window screen! Looks like the window screen gave something for the bondo to hold onto. Ouch. That will have to come out.

And what was My Pet Monster doing this whole time? Just sitting on the hood of my car, slacking as usual.

And so that is all tonight. After all, it's Sunday night. If I want to work on something, I could work on my Security+ class setup that I have going in my basement. I worked a few hours on it this morning, only to later realise that I had named my server "Server1000" instead of "Server100". That typo cost me the installation. I had to start over installing everything again. Bummer. If I wasn't doing all this at home in my underware I might have been a little more angry about it.

I will close with my Most Valuable Tools awards for the night.

First, I would like to thank the Leather Gloves. These were left in the trunk of the car for dead. They have served me well when working with sharp metal fragments. Also, as usual, "The Motherfucker" was a wonderful aid. It's a chisel! It's a crowbar! And it's still a flathead screwdriver! The vice grips. Oh, were they helpful. I don't know how I would have done it without them. I owe my wife a favor for making me buy those. Oh yeah, and tin snips. They helped me tear away some of that heater channel stuff and get it out of my way.

Good night all! I'm off to shower away the orange hand cleaner smell I am carrying around.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Bleep Bleep!
My wife and I had a babysitter all last night, and most of today too! We didn't waste a minute. Last night we went to dinner. Normally this would be a disaster waiting around for a table with the kids. But with it just being us, waiting nearly an hour for a table at the Crab Shack wasn't too bad. After about 20 or 30 minutes of waiting around, we hit the bar and I got a Guiness. All good nights begin with Guiness.

And so it was our anniversary today! Notice how I skipped over the rest of the night? You see ... I don't put everything in my journal.

This morning we slept in. Then we got up and went out for breakfast. Neither one of us were really hungry, so we did some shopping first. We hit a couple of thrift stores and a few Odd Lots. After a couple of stores, I found what I was really after, an air powere hammer-chisel. Oh yeah, this split blade will peel my old floor pan off the bug like a ripe banana peel.

And while thrifting I found some REAL gems. Check out this cool pillow I bought for "THE MOTHERFUCKER".

We are planning on building a little platform to put it on. I think I will try to weld one with the futon' parts. I also think we need to attach a light to it, so that the motherfucker can remain lit like a rare diamond.

I also found this neat little Fisher Price key-chain. It makes noises when you push the buttons. Like the car-alarm arm/disarm noise. I plan on using that one. So when I am walking to my Bug I can pull out my oversized keychain and make the bleep-bleep noise.

Also while I was stumbling around the garage I remembered that I never took a picture of the inside of my Bug. So here is a photo looking in from the drivers side. You are looking at the floor with the seats removed. Messy huh? It looks pretty rusty in there, but the passenger side is actually in good shape. I am thinking I can buff out the rust, repaint it, and toss the carpet back over it.

Anyhow, it's been a great weekend so far. Seeya later.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Rotting Running Bug
So I was sitting in my basement yesterday with my wife and kids and I said "I should go see if that battery in the bug is holding a charge". I also wanted to roll the engine around a little bit and get some oil splashed up on those cylinder walls.

Much to my surprise, I started the car. I wasn't really aiming too. I thought if it gave me any trouble, I wouldn't get into my 'project clothes'. Boom! It was running. My wife poked her head into the garage and yelled "it runs!". We were pretty excited. I let the car run about 5 minutes. It needed no help at all. I was able to climb out, and take a look for myself. I also snapped a picture of my engine while it was running. It probably looked like every other picture I have taken of my engine, but you can see the belt looks blurry because it's vibrating!

Then I popped the emergency brake and let the car pull it self forward in 1st, and then back in reverse. Worked flawlessly. Then I cut the engine and dumped the oil out. I think I got it just hot enough to give it a good bath inside.

I made some plans to go to the auto store. I had called them to check for valve gasket covers, and they said I had to come pay for them today, so I could pick them up tomorrow. I obliged. They were $3.50. I also picked up a set of metric "feelers" to adjust my valves, and a long neck funnel which I desperately needed for oil filling.

I called Jeremy a couple of times with no luck. It would be later that my wife got a hold of him and shared the good news that it was running really well. He couldn't wait to see it himself, so he came on over. We hadn't really planned to work on the car this particular night ... but why not! As Jeremy was on his way, I darted out to Meijer in search of a work light.

I HATE Meijer. I'm so fucking happy that they are building a Wal-Mart about a mile and a half from my house. Never will I go to that dirty, retard staffed Meijers again. Naturally I get there, and they are out of stock on the small halogen work light I needed. So I had to buy the $20 carry-all version of it. It's still a tiny halogen light, but it comes with a tripod, a clamp, and a cool pastic case. I'm not so sure it was worth $20, but it turned out to be a pretty good addition to our tool collection.

Once Jeremy arrived, we had to refill the oil and let it run again so he could hear it. He was pretty impressed. The leaking exhaust concerned him a bit. Nothing like a leaky muffler to screw up your engine compression. But the engine purred. Letting the oil out once again, we plotted our next move. Also by this time, I had made one hell of a mess on the garage floor I tried to mop up what I could. But yuck!

Floor Pans!
Jeremy was ready to dig right into the badly needed body work. The floor pans and the heater channel on the drivers side of the car had to come out (what was left of them). Thankfully he borrowed his dads jack for the job ... I think it's a 10 ton. The labels and such wore off of this beast about 20 years ago. It's quite the garage gem!

You can also see the Futon' there to the left of Jeremy. It's the most uncomfortable piece of furniture I have ever put my ass onto, this coming from a guy that things the VW spring seats are comfy! My wife wants it disposed of. I suggested we keep it for welding practice, and she suggested we make a glorified tool rack out of it! Good plan. And Jeremy's father is letting us borrow his high amperage Arc Welder. Yahoo!

We decided to jack up the car and bleed the brakes, since we never did that. It's always a good move. We really didn't have to do it because we never opened the brake like doing the drums. But I wanted to exchange some of the old brake fluid out and also get the bleeders moving again. If you let those things go for a few years, they become a lost cause and you end up buying calipers over a broken bleeder bolt. The procedure took maybe an hour. Because I bled each wheel about 5 times or so, and because we were drinking and bullshitting all the way. Per John Muirs advice (famous VW author) we did the left rear, then right rear, then right front, then left front. The idea is to start as far away from the master brake cylinder as possible, and work towards it. The brake cylinder is easily located underneath the front drivers side tire. And see if you notice what I noticed.

The brake warning light was only hooked to the rear brakes. I'm not sure how that all works. I would guess that it's one complete circuit, and so either only the back brakes work the light, or the circuit is always open, and the whole warning system is pointless. I will need to check my wiring diagram later. At any rate, when this cars engine was rebuilt, and all the wiring was re-done, you can see they put new wiring and connectors here. I think they knew what they were doing.

Now onto the body! We thought we had better get the drivers side seat out since we would not want to do excessive kicking and budging of the car once it was onto the jack stands. We had no idea of how to get the seats out. I consulted my Beetle bible and found no instructions, so it HAD to be simple. The "twenty dollar light" and it's tripod came in handy for lighting up the floor and helping us figure it out.

In the end it was very simple. You just have to dis-engage the 'teeth' holding the seat in the track, and then slide the seat forward until it derails. We had both seats out in no time, and we took this photo inbetween.

Behind the front drivers side wheel we started to uncover some of the damage that lead to the destruction of the floor pan and heater channel. Rust behind the front wheel had eaten through. Somone had patched over the hole with a body repair kit. So we started poking at it with a screwdriver, and chipping out rotten steel and bondo clumps.

Pretty nasty in there! As you can see in the photos, there is a darkened band extending from left to right above the holes. That is the patch kit. I'm sure it held up for a good couple of years. But the rust continued in all directions and rotted everything in its path. Luckily, the rust didn't continue on the other side! It looks like we will only need a single heater channel, and a single floor pan. Lucky us!

At some point I stopped and flashed a picture of my crooked wheels. These rear wheels land a little funny after jacking up and dropping the car. They straighten out in an hour from the weight of the car bearing down on them. But the first time we saw this happen working on the brakes we about shit our pants. "Did we bend the axel? WTF!".

We chipped away quite a bit of nasty stuff. We also found an aluminum patch behind the tire well that had been riveted into place. It help up well, and being aluminum, there was not a bit of rust on it. We will probably leave the patch as it, but we will definitely need a small panel to weld into place to cover the other damage. Jeremy things he might be able to get some scrap from his place of employment (a plastics and chemical company).

We realised that the running board would have to come off and it was in the way anyhow, so we started unbolting it. It was a real pain in the ass because there were about 3 different sizes of bolt and nut combinations used, and they were all rusted to each other through the body. The board itself was not in terribly bad shape and we will probably re-use it if a new one seems to expensive.

Here you can see Jeremy putting the bolts into a bind by forcing "The Motherfucker" into between the nut and bolt combo. His maneuver freed nearly all the bolts but one. The last one was a real bastard. It was badly rusted, and we were having no luck gripping what was left of the lock nut. Eventually we would get out the hacksaw and lop it off! You can see a silver streak where we exposed some fresh metal. The are underneath was badly rusted from water forming under the running board. So we're going to buff all that paint off and touch it up with paint and primer.

I took several shots of the underbody so you could see the horrible rotting of the floor pan and the heater channel. But all my pictures look like this one ...

I will take some more pictures under there once we get the new parts, the welder, and we really dig into it. There is a seam that gets welded all along the right side of the pant (to the chassis). The other side has a dozen or so bolts holding it on. I started twisting those bolts, and I was just turning them around. The heater channel that they are bolted to has turned to dust. And so we were nearing 2:00AM, and wrapped it up. I sprayed an assload of penetrating oil all over the bolts in hopes of freeing them at a later time. We washed our disgusting hands of, and I headed up to bed. I stopped and took one last photo of my shoes. I have found that it's really hard to stop working on a car long enough to change clothes. But whatever you are wearing when you do a job like this, will be ruined. Just look at these sad old Chuck T's. They have seen a finer day.

Thats all for now! This weekend Jeremy is working, and my wife and I will be celebrating our NINTH wedding anniversery. AND we have a baby sitter. I don't see much auto-work in my future. Perhaps late Sunday I will get around to adjusting my valves and replacing the gaskets.


Monday, March 22, 2004

Back To Slack (I Mean Work)
Seeing how I finished most of my important tasks last week, I will have very little to do in the office this week. I guess that depends on the pace that my new employer wants to move to relocate servers and stuff into the new facility. Today, I am stuck out in the "old house" until 7PM again. I will do this again on Wednesday. And on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday I will be free to move about the two offices. I suppose I should finish some unfinished tasks. Such as taking a physical inventory of classroom computers. That will be interesting since classes will be running and I will be forcing my way into the rooms when the students are on break.

Only five more days until my wedding anniversary (the NINTH!). I wish I could say that I have a big surprise planned for my wife. But I managed to screw that up. We had quite a bit of spare money left over from our tax return, but we sunk all of that buying the Bug! So, I developed a new plan. My boss let me take home an old piece of equipment that could yield $100 to $200 on eBay. And my mom says she owes me a free babysitting. I may just take her up on that! That is all you will hear in my journal. My wife may read these entries and I wouldn't want to ruin what I am brewing. At any rate, it's going to be a late gift. I will never get the sale wrapped up in time for the weekend.

Turkey Pot Pie Is THE BOMB
I was looking around the grocery store for something to take to work and eat last night. In the frozen food aisle I found turkey pot pies for $0.39. Not bad! I bought two and I have them baking now. Man they smell good! Funny how this place has two ovens, and no microwaves. Oh well. Baked food comes out better anyway.

I set my son up with a journal last night. He was watching me put stuff about the Bug into mine and he was jealous. So I created him one and showed him how to use it. He keeps a journal at school (in the second grade) so he had some idea of what to put in it. His first entry was something to the effect of "My names Andy, this is my journal, and I'm 7 years old". A few minutes later he created another entry, "My dad is cool, and he made me this journal". About six or seven postings later he got bored with it and quit adding little entries. I wonder if he will continue to use it? It would be fun starting an online journal at a young age, and then going back years later to read the things you had posted. You can check his journal out here ... Andy's Journal.

Anyhow, I brought new entertainment with me today. My new bible, "How To Keep A Volkswagen Alive" by John Muir. I love this book for all of the step by step procedures. And because you can open the book to a random page, and begin reading. Most car manuals read like stereo instructions. John's books are crammed with entertainment value, and honesty. It's nice to see people are still enjoying his books years after his death.

So, see you later when I have something more interesting to say.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Beetle Has Landed
Friday was THE day. It required far more planning than anyone anticipated. We were on hold with making plans until we heard back from Pat, who owned the garage that housed the Bug. He was in New Hampshire until Wednesday. Thankfully, he contacted me as soon as he returned into town. Then we had to get a hold of U-Haul and reserve a trailer for Friday. Naturally, that was a pain in the ass. They must have asked for my vehicle information about 20 times. Make that 40 times. I kept having to tell them what vehicle would do the hauling, and what was going on the auto-transport trailer. So a reservation was set for Friday between 3 and 4.

Friday we had Rob come over to watch the kids, and then my wife and I hopped into my friend Jeremy's GMC Envoy and set off to U-Haul. Once there, we had retard wait for us at the counter. I'm not sure if she was "new there", or just plain helpless. But we spent a good 20 minutes staring at her, while she stared into space. I guess the hook-up guy was running around trying to figure out how to connect the auto-transport wiring to Jeremy's Envoy. The 2004 Envoy has some new wiring type that they couldn't match. Eventually this little guy comes into to talk to us and he is juggling three different wiring adapters. He tells us that if he had a fourth one, he could get this figured out. Otherwise, it was a no-go. One of the more competent employees overheard all of this, and interupted. She says "no! no! no! - drive down to the U-Haul self storage around the corner, and they have an adapter that will fit". So we did. We drove a mile down the road, and here was a U-Haul center that didn't even have trailers. But they did have the adapter we needed, and Jeremy spent $15 on it. Which was very nice. I offered to buy it, but his point was "what would you do with it?". So he bought it in hopes he will someday get to use it again.

Now that we were back to U-Haul, we had them hook up the trailer. It was gigantic. We theorized that we could probably fit two Beetles onto it. I think we were right.

On the way, I called Pat to let him know that we were only about a half an hour away. But it turned out to be more like 1 hour away thanks to Friday rush hour traffic. Once there, we found out that backing a gigantic trailer down a VERY narrow winding driveway would be dificult. So we parked the Envoy in the street, and ended up pushing the Beetle down the driveway, and muscling it up onto the transport. It was tough.

The Beetle seemed locked into place. Most likely, the emergency break had rusted in place. When I popped it, I didnt feel much pull-back tension. This had happened on my old bug, and short of taking the rear wheels off we would not be able to dis-assemble it. With some pushing and shoving, it finally broke lose. We were actually scooting the car without the rear tires rotating at first. Talk about a lightweight car! Once it got rolling, it was cakework to get it into the street. Pushing it onto the lift proved to be a bit dificult. And for a moment, I thought Jeremy and my wife were going to get run over. Hopping away from the wheel and lending a third hand, we were just able to roll it onto the lift.

The ride home was an easy one. Jeremy took it really slow, and we all watched the Bug on the back praying that nothing would go wrong in the transport. Once back, we decided to park the Envoy in the street, drop the Bug off the transport, and then shove it into the garage.

And so the bug was home. And it was getting late. We decided to celebrate. We drank beer, we ate pizza, and we watched a movie. Then we drank more beer. We looked at the car. Then we went to bed. No work was performed yet.

In the morning we got right to work. I climbed into my zip up monkey suit and got started on the bizarre wiring mess in the 'trunk' (up front). I also took some 'before' pictures of the bug. The lighting in the pictures is awful because it was storming really badly outside, and the garage door was completely closed.

You can click on those pictures above, and then see bigger versions!

So here is my wiring mess, if you can see it. It looks as if the air intake for the defroster was removed in order to put in a cheap radio/cassette stereo. The wiring was done very poorly. Basically, the radio was wired directly to the battery (not the ignition). This is how my old bug was wired (poorly). So you would have to remember to turn the radio off or you would kill your battery. I wasn't going to stand for that! The deeper I poked into the radio wiring, the more destruction I un-covered. Whoever had wired the radio wasn't interested in keeping things nice. The wires were twisted together, and then duct-taped.

I spent the next few hours re-wiring, soldering, and correctly reinstalling the defroster. Meanwhile, Jeremy and Rotary headed off to the auto-part store for some supplies. We had been compiling a list of some things we needed. And at some point I decided to start recording it all on a white-board.

After finishing the wiring, I was waiting on parts. So I decided to remove the oil pan, and clean the oil screen. Bugs don't have an "oil filter" that you dispose of. Instead you have a screen that catches metal fragments of sizable chunks. The engine only holds about 3 1/2 quarts of oil. So maintaining CLEAN and proper oil levels is extremely important to a bug. The screen had nothing unusual in it, and there was no oil in the engine to speak of. It had slowly leaked out of somewhere all over the previous owners garage floor. Yucky.

I also noticed a lot of sticky oil leakage that had built up on these "caps". It looks like I could pop these off and probably expose the rocker arms. The gaskets on both sides are GONE! But I left them alone for now. It could be a can of worms, and I should buy new gaskets before scraping these old ones off.

To keep the kids busy, I had let them get their scooters out and roll around in the garage. The sun had come out, and I was able to pull up the garage door. It was also suprisingly warm! A good day to be under a car. I made them stop running back and forth and pose for a photo. And what a photo! My daughter has been very excited about the car. She calls it "the bug car".

With the bright sun, I decided to take another picture of my engine so that you can see how clean and neat it is. Honestly, I have never seen a bug this clean that was actually driven daily.

I also took a picture of the growing trash pile. It doesn't looks like much now, but we haven't really gotten started. I would later start using an old pastic sled as a large open waste basket. What you see here is the old trim that was peeled off the car and replaced. But for whatever reason, the old trim was stuffed into the trunk in a knotted pile.

Once Jeremy and Rotary got back, we brought all the goodies into the garage. And goodies! Jeremy sprung for all sorts of great gear. Jack stands, new plugs, a case of oil, some new tools, and two really large containers. For what you might ask? Well we had done a lot of drinking, and Rotary didnt like us coming in and out of the house to use the bathroom. You understand.

I'm kidding!! What you see here is 5 year old artifact gasoline. It's very dark in color, and pretty strong smelling. I'm sure it's highly explosive, so we were careful to put away anything that might create a spark, and extinguished all cigarettes. Using a siphon that Jeremy bought, we drained all the gasoline we could out of the engine. It totaled somewhere around 5 gallons. What do you do with old gasoline? We would figure that out later. For now, we kept on working.

Jeremy made the mistake of asking about the brakes. All we really knew about them is that they were rusty and at least partly worn. Getting into a brake job on an old car car turn into a nightmare really fast. Sometimes you end up buying new calipers, rotors, etc. and spending a small fortune. I was not interested in opening the can of worms. Jeremy pushed forward offering to purchase whatever might be required to complete the job. How could I say no? We dug in and pulled a few wheels off. At this point, the car was off the ground on jack stands.

Ugh! Thats rusty! We found that both the front and rear brakes were "drum" style (opposed to disc). Jeremy and I both have put drum brakes on many vehicles and it's become old hat. Yet, we know what a pain it can be. Getting the actual rotors off would also become dificult. I consulted my bible! In the passenger seat of the car was left an old book titled "How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive". I had a copy of this about 10 years ago, that I left in my dead car. It's a fantastic book, with amazing illustrations. It puts all the Haynes manuals to shame. We definitely needed new brake pads, and probably some other parts too. So it would be back to the auto part store for more supplies. Jeremy and Rotary headed off, and I continued to work on other areas of the car and take some pictures.

Here is a picture of antifreeze. Jeremy bought it for the bug. I guess in all the excitement of getting new parts, he forgot that Beetles are air-cooled. Hah! Anyhow, we need antifreeze for my Honda, so I'm keeping it anyway!!

Here we are later putting on new front brakes. Jeremy is kneeling down here comparing the old pads to the new ones to make sure everything lines up properly. All the required tools are spread out. A bud light, flashlight, some high performance grease (for the bearings), many pairs of pliers and such, a grease rag (we used about 4), and probably one of the strangest tools you will see ... a gear puller. The gear puller can grip a rotor from either side, while push toward the center with a pointy bolt-like thing. It was a HUGE help on the rear brakes. And although it retailed at $30, Jeremy was quick to point out that it was indeed a life-time tool.

Here you can see Jeremy putting the gear puller into action. The brakes were rusted pretty solid, and the pressure held the rotor pretty tight. We bent a few parts (namely the old pads), but the rubber mallet put everything back into shape.

You will also notice that Jeremy has quite the breaker bar. This tool alone was $20, which sounded like a bargain to me. It was about three feet long, and it gave a lot of torque on the rear wheel nuts. The alternative method to removing the nuts is to use a shorter breaker bar, and then slip a pipe over the handle end to get more leverage. In John Muir's Bug book he refers to it as "a cheater pipe".

We worked late into the evening and eventually early into the morning. Around midnight we did take a break to go get dinner. White Castle was about all that was open, and nobody seemed to mind slamming down a few sliders and beer. Then, it was back to work. Rotary watched Jeremy and I struggle with a rotor, and then snuck off to bed. We probably should have quit because of the noise we were making. Some parts has rusted solid, so we did a lot of banging with a rubber mallet and a large flat-head screwdriver that we have nicknamed "The Motherfucker". This screwdriver is legendary.

Although I am not really sure where it came from, it is the only Snap-On brand tool in my arsenal. We once used this screwdriver as a chisel, and broke lose the engine block of a 1965 AMC Rambler. Where other screwdrivers let us down, The Motherfucker prevailed. We have snapped the tip off of many screwdrivers over the years. We could fill a bucket with all the Craftsman tools we have busted. But not The Motherfucker.

Nearing five in the morning, we were done, and we lowered the car off the jack stands. It was a long job, but I was glad we did the breaks. Jeremy's suspicions were right. They were in awful shape. The brakes wore very un-evenly around the car. Another year or two and some of those parts would have rusted solid for eternity. After some cleaning up, and a beer, it was quitting time.

Jeremy decided to go home so he could catch a shower, a change of clothes, and his own bed. I peeled off my horribly stained and oil soaked outfit and climbed into bed.

Throughout the day, we had done just about all we need to do with the car aside from the body work. Whether we can get the engine running or not remains to be seen. We have some carb' cleaner, and some starter fluid if we run into trouble. But it's gotten pretty cold for garage work today. Parhaps later this evening we will brave the un-heated garage for more fun.

Now today is my day for doing some small projects like fixing the vacuum cleaner that Rotary has been asking me to repair for about two weeks now. And maybe, just maybe, I will try to get some sleep tonight. I'm beat!

Thank you for allowing me to share the great Bug diaries with you. Next episode, THE ENGINE!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Spring Cleaning Through A Blizzard
I had a plan yesterday, which was no plan at all really. I had originally been scheduled to teach 160 miles away. Thank God that was reassigned to someone else. It left me free to do what I really wanted to do ... drop a visit to my new friends. My training company was recently merged with a larger, better training company. But I had not spent much time out at the new location, and I needed to. I was desperate to talk to anyone out there, just for the sake of making contact. I also needed to open the doors on discussing what will happen with my small server farm at the smaller training center.

So I showed up at the new training center. Drove up there, sat down in their cafeteria, and then began e-mailing people in the offices upstairs. This newly renovated building slightly resembles a land-docked cruise ship with it's pointy front end. My e-mail went something like this, "I have docked, and come aboard your facility. You can find me in the bow of the ship, near the coffee bar if you want to come shake my hand". About five minutes later, two guys that I had met a few weeks ago came down and got me. They were happy to bring me upstairs to 'hang out'.

They showed me around the offices giving me another short tour. We discussed a few "issues" with my little server farm, and then they gave me a place to throw my stuff down. It was nice. I had a little desk facing a window to prop up my laptop and ... "get to work?". I thought the first thing I should do is check my e-mail. Yet ... I was getting nothing in response from the mail server. In fact, my router back at home base was denying all my traffic from this wireless connection. I'm still not sure why. But I was able to connect to my PC at home, and then check my e-mail from there. Only to find I had a few requests for things to do back at home base. So after about 40 minutes or so, I had to slide out and say goodbye. Still, it was a good visit, and I appreciated the very nice welcome I got. Especially since I came unannounced.

As I was driving back to my little office I thought I might stop for lunch. I had a few projects planned based on e-mails I had gotten. And McDonalds was looking pretty tempting. But then I got a call. Patrick, whom I had just spoken to about 20 minutes prior was requesting that we bump up his "discovery" of our network to today. This "discovery" process is where they come out and examine our network, and how we do things. This map will be the basis for the plan to dismantle some of the servers, and move most of the business stuff into the larger building.

I was NOT ready for a visit. But I said that was fine! So skipping lunch, I headed right back to the building and got to work. I had planned to clean out my server room on Thursday, so that they could come examine it on Friday. I had some work to do. I started by throwing away as much as possible from the server room. There were a lot of empty boxes that we didn't really need any more. That was a trip to the dumpster. When I put together a PC as a router, I had hooked up an old Samsung monitor to it. That monitor was so near death that you could barely read anything on the screen. That was a separate trip to the dumpster. Unfortunately, even at the altitude and speed that I propelled it into the dumpster, it did *not* explode. I was hoping.

I didn't mind the cleaning part at all. In fact, it was a long overdue house-cleaning. What I didn't like was that it was pouring down inches of snow while I was trying to run around to the dumpsters. I had worn "nice" shoes since I was going to the new place and making attempts to look presentable. Luckily I had also packed my dirty old Chuck T's. So I was changing shoes all morning.

Patrick arrived about 1:00PM which had given me enough time to clean up my room really well, and also draw a network diagram on the whiteboard in the next room. I was expecting more people to show up, so I shoved a few chairs into my server room. Yet, it was only Patrick. He didn't even have a laptop! "Discovery" to me generally means an intrusive scan on someones network. Aparently, to this company a "discovery" is more of a Q and A session. He had some great questions. And in trying to answer a few of them, I had to go poke around on my servers. Simple things like DHCP left me drawing a blank. Did I put that on "Endor" or "Tribble"? Patrick was able to answer many of his own questions by checking things out on our Windows boxes. But on my three FreeBSD boxes, I offered assistance. I wasn't sure if he had any Unix skills. I generally assume people do not, unless when you mention that you are running Unix in your production environment, they gesture for a high five.

While Patrick was busy on his check list, I was able to slip back and forth on setting up a remote PC for our receptionist. Rather than try to establish a VPN connection, etc, we opted for a remote PC on our network. So she can connect to it, transfer files, check mail, etc all on our network - from afar.

As it drew closer to 5:00PM I could see Patrick was trying to wrap things up. I imagine he is obligated to work a full day, so he hung around right up to 5:00PM. I was anxious to get out into traffic, so I hurried along to finish up this remote PC and drop it off into the server room.

Now my plans for the week have changed. I had planned to have tomorrow off (or at least part of it off) for a conference in my sons school. Yet, we never got details on this conference, so perhaps it was cancelled. Patrick requested a map of my network and an IP list. So tomorrow morning I will be mapping my network! In the afternoon, I will have to drive over and drop off this info. If possible I would like to hang out with their administrators and talk about this 'migration'. I am pushing to get rid of my mail server back at home base. Its a flakey piece of trash with hardware issues, and my boss does not want to replace it. I would like if they could add our domain to their exchange server, and serve our accounts from their location. Then I could put an axe in the mail server and kiss it goodbye. They are frowning on the thought. I need to work on them a little bit.

And meanwhile, I am stuck out in this old damned house with no Internet access. I would love to be able to check my e-mail. Oh well. I suppose I could get a pen and some paper, and try to map my network on paper, so that when I create it in Visio tomorrow, I will have an easier time. I gotta keep busy doing something or I go crazy out here. Monday I found myself standing outside shooting hoops and wandering around the property. Did I mention I found a 3 1/2 foot swimming pool? It looks like the pool was enclosed by bushes at one time. But the bushes have grown into trees. And the pool is more of a mud pit these days.

So ... back to work!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Can You Hear Me Now?
Cell phones really piss me off sometimes. When the cell phone craze hit, I remember people complaining about how rude and invading they are. I thought it was all bullshit. Now, I am beginning to agree.

Last night I wake up to my cell phone ringing. I had it charging on my night stand. I answer the phone, they ask for someone by name. Its the wrong number. He says sorry, and hangs up. I then realize that I was only asleep about 20 minutes when this asshole woke me up. Just as I am getting back to sleep again, he calls a second time. I mute the ringing and let the call go. He can listen to voicemail message, and take a hint. It's STILL the wrong number dumb ass. 5 minutes later, guess who calls a third time. This time I turned the phone off. What made him think it would be the right phone number the second or third time?

This morning I walk into the gas station and there is a guy buying smokes at the counter, on his cell phone. And he is YELLING. What is it that makes people think "if I am having a hard time hearing them, I should talk louder"? So he's yelling into his phone so loud, his voice is echoing around the gas station. Meanwhile the cashier is trying to give this guy his change and get him the hell out of the way. "Yeah! I'm getting gas. Then I'm going to go back to my truck. Yeah. Yeah". Could this call wait until you are outside?

I get outside and there is a guy standing at the gas pump with a ringing phone. It sounds like mine. But then, they all sound the same. You would think the cell phone manufacturers could come up with some original ringing noises so that you don't have to chose A, B, or C noises. And Nextel with their clever little "ble-deep" noise you make with a two-way radio chat is always the same. When I had a Nextel I used to *beep* a phone we had sitting in a drawer back at the office. The noise carries really well. And since everyones phone makes the same noise, they all check their phone when they hear it. It was great fun standing in Sam's Club (or an otherwise large store), and make the little *ble-deep* noise as loud as possible. Then watch everyone who owned a Nextel grab their phones. I had a guy ahead of me in line once check his phone five times. Yes, five times. He was really getting irritated with that phone. "Why am I getting beeped, but there is nobody there? WHY?".

So anyhow, this guy at the pump answers his phone, and can't hear the other person. Are you surprised? Can you ever hear anyone on a cell phone? If everybody has a cell phone, and they pay $30 a month for it, why can't they build cell towers that actually connect you, and keep you connected. Or better yet, why are cell phones so damn weak. I hardly ever use my phone, but when I do, my conversations have to stay under 5 minutes, or I end up hanging up on the person because I have lost my signal again.

What a fucking waste of technology. I wonder what we will think of all this in 50 years.

Working Weekend
I have been feeling really lazy lately. And my blood pressure it higher than ever. Friday I kept glancing in the mirror at my bright red face. High blood pressure is hard to describe. You really feel like you are going to "pop". It makes you feel nervous, anxious, and generally explosive. It's a lot like being really angry. So when it's high, you feel frustrated with everyone. It's just really hard to calm it down.

So this weekend I decided I needed to get some work done, and get some exercise. At the same time, I would cut back on the things that raise my blood pressure.

Saturday morning I had a large cup of coffee. We are talking about a beer stein sized coffee mug. Boy did I regret it. Caffeine really does the number on me. Then I went to work. I had several projects to work on. I really needed to get the garage ready for my Beetle. I was going to park a car in it, and I had no room to get the care in there with all my junk and trash laying around in piles. And so I cleaned. I breaked for lunch at some point, but otherwise worked non-stop. Before I knew it, 6 hours had gone by. No wonder I was feeling exhausted! I decided to throw in the towel, and cook dinner. Even though I could be done with the garage with another 30 minutes of work.

For dinner I made chicken salad. Grilled breaded chicken, and salad. Nothing fancy. My kids ate it up! Literally. They loved it. I made the meal more for me, and I didn't expect them to like it. Maybe they were just trying to get ice cream out of me.

Sunday I wanted to keep on keepin' on, So I lined up my tasks.

  • Fix the garage door
  • Fix my daughters bedroom door
  • Fix an electrical problem - my bedroom light and hallway lights have been connected since I installed it (mistake).
  • Fix my daughters window screen
  • Finish in the garage

My garage door has been broken for about a year now. It is badly bent in the middle, so when you open it, the whole thing caves a little in the center. If I didn't fix it soon, the whole door would likely snap down the middle. So I went to Lowes and found shelf railing. It was aluminum, so it was really lightweight. And I got some self-starting bolts. If I bolted these across the top of the door, it would hold up real nicely. But ... Lowes wouldn't take my check. I really hate Lowes. But there isn't another home improvement store for miles. Naturally, if you ask them why they won't take your check , they don't know. That's because they are paying some fucktard check-checking company to deny checks. I'm sure it's because I bounced a check with K-Mart two years ago. Their blacklisting check alliance have been denying my checks ever since. So I would have to go and get cash, and then return to the store to buy my parts. Assholes.

So I get home, and get to work. The framing bolts on nicely, and really strengthens the door. Yet, when I open it, the center still caves in. Well ... that was a waste of time and money. I can see that I will have to bolt something to the outside of the door on all the segments. Expensive, time consuming, and probably ugly to look at unless I can tastefully paint over it.

I'm not going to let that ruin my day!

Then I went to work on my daughters door. She had opened her door once, with a large riding toy behind it. She must have pushed pretty hard, because she stripped the screws out of the bottom hinge. I had put in longer screws when it happened, but they still weren't grabbing onto anything. So I had bought even LONGER screws. I run a few of these 3 1/2 inch screws in, only to find that they too are not grabbing onto anything solid. Another waste of my time. Next!

I laid out my daughters broken window screen on the garage floor, and rip out her screen. My wife had bought me some replacement stuff, which is really easy to put back in. I had done our sliding door screen some time last summer. Yet, this screen was VERY brittle, and it was tearing apart, as I tried to force it into place. I think it was just a cheaper brand than I had gotten before. This was becoming one of those days. Next!

I'm not going to let that ruin my day!

About this time, I decided I would play electrician. So I got my ladder out and climbed up into the attic. Long, long ago I had impressed my wife by installing an overhead light and cieling fan into our master bedroom. That is until I came to bed that night and shut off the hall light. "No! Leave that on" she said. I asked why. "Because it has to be on for our light to be on". Woops. I had made a bad mistake in my wiring. So now I had to fix it. Fixing this problem is quite a work-out. It requires some upper and lower body strength to pull, crawl, and worm your way through the rafters in the house. Just an hour up there takes a lot out of you. So with all the power shut off, I disconnected our light, ran it across the attic, and reconnected it to the appropriate circuit. Hooray! The one thing I would get right all day.

About this time I was getting really tired. So I grabbed my laptop and hit the couch for some rest and relaxation. My wife was still busy cleaning and arranging the living room, and the kids were somehow playing together without fighting (for probably the first time that day). At some point I dozed off. I don't nap much, but man was it nice. About a half an hour later I was pretty refreshed. So I got up, and showered, and got to work making dinner.

For dinner last night, I made pizza. I love making pizza. I have been wanting to try and make a Spinach pizza for a long time. So last night I gave it a shot. I made my dough, covered it with alfredo cheese sauce, then spinach and cheese. It looked amazing! Too bad it tasted like nothing. I'm not sure if it was my cheese sauce, or the low salt spinach. But that pizza was tasteless. Luckily, I made the usual veggie pizza, and the kids had their plain cheese to eat. So dinner was not a complete failure. And I had enough leftovers for lunch today, and probably tomorrow too.

No time like the present
Now I sit waiting. For anyone. A guard to come unlock this house I teach in. My student. Anyone. So far, nobody has shown up. Maybe class was cancelled this morning and someone forgot to tell me. Usually my student is here by 10 after 10. It's almost 10:30 now. I guess I don't mind a little blog time, but if I had known I would be alone, I probably would have stayed home. Since, I am about 5 and a half hours away from my next class. Oh the joy of teaching in the middle of nowhere to a handful of people.

It wouldn't be so bad if there was a wireless network I could leech from. Bummer.

Friday, March 12, 2004

I Wish To Be Probed
They say that idle hands are the devils play things. This morning, I have a trembling pair of idle hands. I didn't think I would be this nervous about a root canal, that my wife is getting. You hear about how awful they are, and my wife is getting two of them right now. I'm really, really, nervous. I know she will be just fine, and she's pretty tough. But to know that she is just a few rooms away (probably in pain) just eats me up.

I am doing my best to keep busy. So I brought my laptop. This dental office is nice! Those $900 root canals buy some nice shit! Stuffed chairs. Simulated 'aged' country cabinets. Hardwood floors with large area rugs. Man, it's nice. And here I am with my laptop, surrounded by a bunch of people. This office is really filling up. I thought I might try to find myself a wireless network. So I brought up MacStumbler. It came up with nothing. Nothing at all. So I brought up KisMac which picks up damn near anything.

KisMac immediately found ... a prober. So here is a guy who is scanning for networks just like me! It's not exciting as it sounds. If I knew there was a guy in the next room with a laptop, and NetStumbler running, that would be neat. But more likely it's a PC with a wireless NIC in it, and no network to connect to. So the card idles all day long looking for something to connect to.

Would it connect to me if I set up shop and invited it in? I had some questions that needed answered. Like, what's the name of the access point that it would like to connect to. Is it asking for anything specific? I could see that the client card was a D-Link, and D-Link typically uses "default" as the name of it's access points. I decided to use KisMac to "dump" out any traffic that it found into a file. This file can then be opened and read with a packet monitor/analyzer, like Ethereal.

And so with dumping enabled, I started up a scan. I must have been looking around the room while I was waiting for some packets to get captured by KisMac. Across the room was a younger guy who had put down his newspaper and was looking at my laptop. He smiled and asked me about a sticker on my laptop. "Is that a Starbucks sticker?". He looked like a coffee shop type. "Nope", I replied, "it's a parody Starbucks sticker ... it says Spend Bucks On Me". He liked that.

Now I had some packets, so I shutdown KisMac and ... Kernel Panic. It's pretty hard to crash a Mac running OS X. That is unless, you do some really weird things with loading and unloading of the wireless card driver. So I rebooted, and then went into Ethereal and opened up the "dump" file I had made.

I had never attempted this before, and it worked surprisingly well. I could see all of the many probe requests made by the client, and inside almost every one of the requests I could make out the name of the access point it was looking for, "default".

I thought so! And now it was time to create my network with the name of default. A wireless trap!

Would they connect to me? If they did, I could connect back to them. Most likely the traffic wouldn't go any farther than that. It's not as if I could connect to this other computer and start surfing the net. Yet, he might be sharing some files, or running some services of interest.

The real question now was, is he connected to me? How the hell would I know if he was. If he could authenticate, and connect to me, his computer would attempt to grab an IP address from me using DHCP. I'm on my iBook ... and although I could install dhcpd, I haven't. So there goes that.

A Lesson In ARP
If I could see that he was connected to my 'network', I could probably invent an IP address for him, and create a 'static arp entry' for him. Basically, you take someones MAC address and tell your computer that a particular MAC address is attached to a certain IP address. Usually this information is 'discovered' on it's own. So when you ping someone on a network, there is first a moment where you don't know them. Your computer goes out onto the network and says "who the hell is". They should answer back "dude, thats me ... and here is my MAC address". We call the whole process "ARP" which is short for "Address Resolution Protocol". Once your computer figures this out, it stores away their IP and their MAC into a table, and holds onto it for a couple of minutes. Later, it will throw away the information and ask again. It's not very likely that their MAC address will change in 2 to 10 minutes. But what the hell. We will check anyway.

To try any of these tricks I would need his MAC address. I would get that from any traffic coming from him, and I could capture it with tcpdump! So I become root (you need to do that) and I start up tcpdump with 'tcpdump -i en1'. The "-i" is short for 'interface' and "en1" is my 'wireless nic'.

Now I watch ... and I watch ... and I watch. All I see streaming by is my own garbage. I have noticed my iBook loves to chatter about it's routing information. It's always hoping that it will find someone to route traffic through. So here I am watching tons of the same requests over and over again. They look like this ...

10:01:22.749125 education.local > ff02::2: icmp6: router solicitation
10:01:26.346568 arp who-has tell
10:01:26.351013 education.local > ff02::2: icmp6: router solicitation
10:01:26.647000 arp who-has tell
10:01:26.951602 arp who-has tell

Blah Blah Blah! Okay, enough with tcpdump. All I am seeing it my own routing requests. And every once in a while an attempt is made to synchronize my clock. How else could I monitor my traffic? Maybe Ethereal can catch them and display them better. Or perhaps tcpdump is withholding information.

I run Ethereal and I run about 4 different groups of packet captures ... finding nothing.

What Happened?
We learn from our failures. So let's see where we went wrong with some Q and A.

  • Was the signal strong enough? - We can't safely answer that one. It was strong enough to get to my laptop to be received. That doesn't say it was strong enough to connect and carry on a conversation. At best, the strength of the signal was around a 7. Thats pretty low.
  • Did he want to connect to me? - We can't assume that he would attempt to authenticate on his own. His wireless card discovered my network, and likely did nothing with it. Perhaps the user was given a pop up box with something to the effect of "a network was found, do you want to connect to it?". I would click no if I wasn't expecting it. Additionally, some wireless connection utilities will not connect to a network automatically if it's NOT WEP encrypted. The user would be given a dialogue box that tells them "this network is insecure, and your data could be at risk ... you shouldn't connect to it".
  • Was this guy a client? - A "probe" is just a general 'anybody out there?' kind of request. It's pretty in-specific. We are assuming it was a PC-based wireless device such as a PC card in a laptop or a WiFi card in a tower style PC. We will never know for sure what 'it' was.
  • Did he connect with us, and we missed it? - Although it's possible that he connected to us, and disconnected soon after, I doubt it. If his network settings were those that the card would actively keep persuing my network, I would have seen some of that traffic in my many packet captures.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Driving Pleasure
I got a Beetle yay! I got a Beetle yay! About 8 years ago, I bought a Bug. It was a 1974 green Super Beetle. I loved that car to death. I used to get up pretty early in the morning to drive my wife to a BP station a few miles away in 'the bug' and I always loved that early morning drive. In fact, I loved going anywhere in that car. It was like riding around in a little toy car. When the poor bug started losing engine pressure, and stalling out I parked it. I was extremely broke at the time. It was probably the poorest my wife and I have ever been. We were sinking in debt, working several jobs, and loving each other through an otherwise miserable part of our lives.

After a few years of sitting in a grassy gravel driveway, the car had rotted away. We were anticipating a tax refund, so I had the car taken to a VW repair shop. Their news was not good. The man told me that the engine was very far gone. He said "we got it running, but only at about 80 percent ... it needs rebuilt". Then he goes on to say that "we were going to put it on the lift, but it would fall apart if we did". He recommended I either hand over a few thousand dollars, or part with the car. I didn't have a few thousand dollars. So I said my goodbyes.

Eight years later, I am still looking to replace my little green friend of so many years ago. I go on eBay at least once a week and sneak in a search for Beetles, but nothing worthwhile ever comes up. The cars that are in decent shape that are remotely close to Ohio go for thousands. The cars that are rotted away to nothing go for about 600 dollars. I had about given up on a Beetle. But then Rob calls me. He says "you want a Beetle"?

Robs boss has a daughter. His daughter got married and moved to New Hampshire. Several years ago she had a blue 1968 Beetle. She had bought it from a little old woman who gave it up after the engine caught fire. This daughter had the engine rebuilt, a paint job, and whatever other repairs it needed putting the car into great condition. Eventually, the floor boards rotted out (Beetles do that), and letting it go caused the car to practically rot out on the drivers side (at the base of the car). She drove the car to her father in laws to be looked at, and he told her she should probably stop driving it. So she parked it in his garage. That was five years ago.

The past five years, this little beauty has been protected from the elements in the garage of a multi-million dollar home (seriously). How did I come to such luck? The best part is the asking price. $600 to $700. NICE. THIS was my project car. I don't expect that the engine will give me much trouble. Its been drained of oil for 5 years. So it will need a few quarts, some new gas, and a lot of petting and talking to. The frame of the car however, will need some work. But it will definitely be worth the expense. The rest of the car is beyond excellent condition. The paint job that the car is wearing was definitely the work of an expensive professional. This is what they would call an "off the frame restoration". The proof of such work is the paint in areas of the car that are otherwise unreachable, and out of view anyhow.

Now the bad news. Robs dad also wanted the car. He made the mistake of mentioning the car to his dad, who couldn't wait for a chance at this cool blue ride. Rob had passed on word that his dad too was interested. So when we were going out to look at the car, his dad came too. Robs dad had gotten directions to this mans home, so we all packed into two cars, and we followed Robs dad to the car. I had talked to Rob about his dad wanting the car. I asked "are we going to get stuck fighting over this car with your dad in a bidding war?". Rob tells me he talked to his dad about it, and that I had 'first dibs' on this vehicle, which made me happy.

When we rolled into this nice mans driveway, he had opened the garage door, and was moving some old bicycles out of the way so that we could walk all around the car. At first glance the car was just beautiful. Robs dad immediately hopped out, shook the mans hand and went on to be shown the vehicle. It wasn't very nice. We were actually the ones coming to buy the vehicle, and we had to catch up to the guy selling it. Rob was a little embarrassed and introduced us as "these are the people coming to look at it".

I was a little embarrassed that Robs father was now under the car with a flashlight checking out the rust. I understand that it's am important part of buying the vehicle, because if the car is rotten to the core, it may not be worth any investment. But giving a $600 car a complete inspection was ... just not making sense to me. Looking at the interior and the upper half of the car was enough to convince me the car was WELL worth the $600 that they wanted. After lifting the engine cap, I was sold. The engine was dusty from sitting so long, but was obviously well cared for. The distributor cap and cables looked new, the belt was in perfect condition, and even those little cardboard/tin foil hoses that channel heat back into the car were in excellent shape. Those are one of the first things to rot away on a daily driven Beetle. It was obvious that this girl loved her car and cared for it very well.

I turned to my wife and asked what do you think? She responded "what do you think?". She told me that this car was more for me, but she also let me know that she thought it was a good deal. I definitely did not want to pass it up. She added "maybe you should go talk to Robs dad, he seems to know what he's doing". Robs dad at this point was sitting in his truck smoking a cigarette, and looking over some parts lists he had printed off the Internet. He was doing numbers on the cost of parts to repair the decaying left side of the car, and the soon to be rotted right passenger floor board. "About $1,100", is what he came to.

I think at this point he knew we were interested in buying the car, so he began tacking on other charges, pitfalls, etc. We could tell he wanted the car. So we agreed that we would be back to buy the car, and find a way to tow it home. Shook the mans hand, and headed towards home. Rob calls me me from the road, and continues to feed me bad news about the car from his father at the wheel. He then says "my dad is offering you $100 to walk away from the deal". I declined.

And so, I had put Rob in a very uncomfortable position. His dad was wanting this car, and we were buying it. I'm sure that his dad had plans of putting a $1k into it, and getting $6k back out of it. The car is definitely a good investment. But I will not be selling it. My plans are to get it back into good running condition, and drive it around. I think a part of me felt guilty because Robs dad was a good man for this job. He has the tools, the time, and the inclination to put the car back into shape in his garage. But for what? To sell it?

I will no doubt be paying for any body work that is performed on the car, and it will be in my garage for quite some time until we have some extra money to perform such a repair. I hated to put Rob in the middle. But I had to come to a decision. Did I want that car? ABSOLUTELY! So I apologized to Rob for sticking him in that spot, Rob apologized for sticking us in the spot, and we proceeded to buy the car, and no doubt make enemies with his father for life.

Rob later said "my dad says he doesn't care that you bought it, he just doesn't want the car to go to waste". Which was clearly understandable. The girl selling this care had requested that whoever buy it, keep it. And continue to drive the car, not rip it to pieces and sell all the parts. I will certainly fulfill her wish.

So last night, we returned with $650 or borrowed money. The banks weren't open, U-Haul was closing, and didn't have a car tow, and all odds were against us. After about the third call to the man holding onto the car he says "my wife tells me that I am making this too complicated. Come buy the car ... you can pick it up from my garage next week!". And so we did. Returning the house, I paid the piper, and picked up a cleared and notarized auto title, two keys, and another quick look at what was now my car, in his garage.

Next weekend we go to pick up the car. Preferably on a flat bed trailer (so that we do not bend the frame of the weak spot in the car). I will CERTAINLY be cleaning up the dusty exterior and posting photos of my new pet car. You will drool. All of you. Even you bitches that think SUV's are neat.

Oh hell, I got time for another story. Here it is only 12:45PM and I don't have class for another 3 hours. Let me tell you why old Macs suck.

Robs boss had a Mac. We are talking about an "all-in-one" unit that pre-dates the PowerMac. In fact, it was still sporting a sticker from when he bought it one hundred years ago that read "ready for PowerPC upgrade". So he basically had a very old Mac, that wanted nothing to do with a standard PC (network or otherwise).

His boss had a collection of files on the Mac that he wants off. To get the files off of the Mac, he had been dialing up to the Internet and e-mailing the items to himself over a 9600 baud connection. It was painful and time consuming. He requested that Rob (who works for him) get all of these files off the Mac and onto a hard drive, CD-ROM, or anything else of that nature. What a task that turned out to be.

What I first noticed about the Mac is that it was running an ancient Operating System. MacOS version 7.5.3 which just happens to be the last MacOS that Apple decided to make "free" to anyone who wants to download it, or trade it on the Internet for those "classic Macs". The problem, was that after years of use, this operating system was trashed. There were missing files, corruption's, bad 'extensions', you name it. My first thoughts were to reload the OS ... which I couldn't do without hurting the files we needed off.

My first thoughts were to work with getting things to and from a floppy. I inserted a disk. Burp! Rob had neglected to mention that the floppy drive was in fact bad. It would be a week later that I got it back out with the ol' paper clip eject trick. So now what? The only way we could get the files off of the mac were through the dial-up connection. But emailing them was inefficient. So ... I downloaded Fetch. Fetch is a FTP client for Classic Mac's. The FTP utility works, but it only transfers one file at a time, and will not do entire folders at a time. To get Fetch onto a CD to load onto the computer even proved a task.

Since this Mac was not a PowerPC, it would only read Mac formatted discs (HFS). We would have to download something called to create a "HFS disc image" and then transfer the image (ISO) to my PC to be burned onto the disc. Each time we wanted to get anything onto the Mac, we would have to go through the image creation on one machine, and the burning on the other. It was time consuming, and fruitless. After two long nights of fiddling, I threw in the towel. I pointed out some network cards on eBay and directed Rob to go lay down $14 and get one.

After a week or so, we returned to the project and threw in the network card. If only I had known what we were up against now. This Mac was running MacTCP which is only halfway compatible with a normal Ethernet network. So I spent a good couple of nights trying to make that part of it work. Many things had been locked out by an administrator probably some 7 years ago. Reinstalling the network components did not help.

Nights, and nights had gone by and we hadn't gotten a single thing out of this drive. I decided it was time to change plans. Could we remove this drive, and hook it to a healthy mac? My son has a mac in his bedroom that has MacOS 9 on it, and it connects to my network just fine.

And so I removed the drive, it was SCSI, and I headed to my sons room with it. Upon taking my sons computer apart, I find that it was IDE. Woops. And so I returned to the basement with my SCSI-1 drive. What the hell was I going to do with this. I wondered what the chances were for mounting this drive under Darwin. Darwin is open-source OS-X, and that would be my best bet at a free operating system that reads HFS volumes. It turns out, the chances were good! Darwin would do it! But Darwin is a pain in the ass, and would never detect the SCSI card I would be using. What about FreeBSD? Darwin is based on it.

As luck would have it, some kind soul has taken the Darwin HFS mounting code, and made it work for FreeBSD. I have FreeBSD on my router! But .. not a new enough version. I tried to compile the code anyway and found myself swimming in errors. I would need a new FreeBSD version. I look at the clock, and it's 10 PM. Too late to rebuild a router? Never.

The trick was to have something newer than 5.0 (I had 4.9) and to rebuild the kernel including a "GEOM_APPLE" option. No sweat. It would just take time. At about 1:30 in the morning, the kernel was being built and installed, and I went to sleep watching the endless strings of 'gcc' scroll by.

The following morning I awoke, grabbed my laptop, and mounted the drive. Hallelujah! I had all the data ready to go.

The bad news was that the data was still in HFS format. I zipped it all up, and tried to unzip it on my PC only to find that there were oodles of incompatibles with the HFS/PC transfer. The answer to all my problems? NameCleaner. This little program takes filenames and strips them of any colons, quotation marks, and other illegal Windows filename characters (for which there were many).

And so in the end, I was able to stick the zipped up "Mac only" files on a disc, along with the PC readable format files that were cleaned up by my laptop. All in only a few weeks time. So the moral of the story? If your friend ever comes to you with a really old Mac and asks to have files taken off of it ... don't say "no sweat". Refer them to me, and I will talk them out of this entire project. I forgot to mention that when I mounted my other drives with my router, it was expecting them to be a HFS file system. Woops. Something tells me I may be rebuilding my router again real soon. Thank God the Mac thing is over. :-)

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Off The Wire
My battery arrived yesterday for my laptop. It's been great opening the lid to my laptop and not having to wait for it to start up. I close the lid and it sleeps! Just like its supposed to. I open the lid, and it comes right back to life. No longer will I have to shut it down, just to carry it into another room and start it up.

I sat in the server room today back at the office with my laptop on my lap, and no cords to trip over. A couple of times I walked into a classroom gripping my laptop in hand and never losing connection to the access point. It's every boys dream.

Once I got home, I just *had* to get wireless access working in my house. In all my wardriving adventures I have aquired several wireless cards. So why not build my own wireless access point with an old laptop? I had all ready installed Slackware linux to a really old lappy (486 with 48 megs of RAM). And I all ready had one wired network card, and one wireless card working in it. However ... I couldn't for the life of me get that damned thing to forward traffic. I followed countless examples, tutorials, etc. and not a damn thing worked. It seems that developers of iptables feel the need to rewrite the functionality of it with every new release. Thanks assholes.

I stumbled upon something called "Jay's Firewall" on SourceForce. Its nothing more than a firewall script writer/configurator written in perl. What a find. Within about 2 minutes of downloading it, I had fully functional wireless gateway.

Now I am laying down in bed, with absolutely no wires, and blogging. Suprisingly, I can get all the way downstairs, and sit in my living room without losing signal. Thats pretty impressive considering my traffic is going from one wireless card to another (ad-hoc style).

Coming Clean
I should probably tell you all why I have reported nothing in the way of wardriving adventures. The top reason? I haven't done any wardriving! My wife and I have been busy working on our kids bedrooms. We are nearing completion. In fact, tonight we should be about done with both bedrooms. I will be posting pictures of our work in days to come. You will be impressed, I am sure.

This secret project I have planned doesn't really have to be a secret. I am working on a book. This book will feature some of my more interesting wardriving finds. I'm not sure if I will find anyone interested in publishing it. But it's worth a shot. I have done a few small adventures with Audrey (the laptop) that have gone unreported. They instead, have gone right into my unfinished work.

I figure if my book is nothing more than what I have posted here, it wouldn't make for much of a book. So, I will be splitting my adventures in wardriving between my blog, and this unfinished book.

My plan is to have completed a treatment (sample material) within the next two weeks, and have it sent off to a number of publishers to seek some interest. It will no doubt be contraversial, so there is no telling if it will ever see the light of day. If by chance nobody claims it, I will certainly make it available to all of you for free.

Now, the cat is out of the bag. And I have to get back to work. I need to finish my painting of a giant Pikachu face on my daughters wall so we can lay down the carpet.