poindexter, WHO?

What's This?

Kurt Weiske's other blog.

Retro tech enthusiast, photgrapher, and systems guy.

Blogging like it's 1999. Static blog generation, talking tech...

my bbs

Sat, 11 May 2024

Homelab Maintenance

I work out of my home office full-time. I spend a lot of time here, and so I'm used to the way things look - and sound. I was on a video call this week when something felt off. I took off my headphones and heard it.



One of the drives in my homelab was beginning to fail.

My Proxmox server hosts an Active Directory domain, Windows test environment, LXC containers and Docker containers. It hosts media services, ad blocking and backs up data from my family's computers.

This "homelab" isn't one of those half-racks full of industrial-grade servers in closets you see on YouTube. I assembled mine over the years from end-of-life, unwanted and discounted hardware. My primary server is a laptop purchased on eBay for parts, with screen burn in and missing keys. It did, however, come with 20 GB of RAM. My firewall and NAS came from thrift shops. I'd thought about upgrading it, but it serves my needs well and cost less than a used Dell desktop.

I deactivated the failing drive and replaced it with a spare drive I had laying around. I would have set up a hot-spare, but I needed all of the bays in my NAS.


While the NAS drive was beginning to fail, the clunk was coming from an external USB drive used to back up the NAS. The drive was sitting vertically as was designed. I turned it around so the drive lay horizontally, and the noise went away. When I was starting out in IT, we had a superstition about running spinning drives sideways, thinking it could make a head crash easier. Turns out that superstition still lives in the back of my head.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pruning backups, putting a replacement external drive on my Amazon wishlist, and re-routing cables, like you do when you run a homelab.


posted at: 09:36 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 26 Apr 2024

Dialed In

I went to a presentation at the Computer History Museum called Dialed-in: The Prehistory of Social Media.

The event was a discussion with Kevin Driscoll, author of "The Modem world: a Prehistory of Social Media", and danah boyd, author of "It's Complicated".

The event talked a bit about the history of BBSes and contrasted current social networks with the local communities that sprouted up around BBSing.

To me, in a nutshell, BBSing was an exclusive group - not many people had computers, and the onus was on a caller or sysop to buy a modem, get a phone line (or share a line and risk the hazards of doing so...), find terminal software and build a BBS list.

The panel could have been an open discussion - I'm sure many of the people in the crowd were sysops at one time, or even current sysops. Thankfully, they dodged a bullet by avoiding the sys-op/sise-op wars of the 1990s.

I went with 3 sysops/friends of mine from the golden-age of BBSing. Taipan Enigma and Dr. Strangelove started NIRVANAnet(tm), and Zardoz and I were some of the first sysops to join the nascent network. We joked that the panelists missed out on the culture that they were observing.

It was good seeing people I'd spent the 90s conversing with, both online and in person at the user meetups we'd arrange. The idea of going out for beers afterwards was suggested, but I had an hour drive, early work days ahead, babysitters to let go, and so on. Quite unlike the old days when a couple of nights out ended up with staying up all night, posting on BBSes, greasy-spoon diner breakfasts, and going home to nurse a hangover.

posted at: 11:03 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 16 Apr 2024

Taking a break

I'm taking a one month break from Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. I'm going to stick with Mastadon for the time being, as it seems unadulterated by algorithms and company marketing teams - it's just interesting people at this point.

Reddit, I may browse -- there are a couple of interesting subreddits I read for technical info and advice. We'll see.

I need to find an RSS feed for news, I realized that I get most of my news from Twitter these days.

posted at: 15:42 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 15 Apr 2024

25 Years!

I realized that my blog and domain (kataan.org) are 25 years old today! I started a project to move the older items from a text archive (downloaded from blogger, remember them?) into my Wordpress database. I hadn't realized that with blogger, I used it like Twitter as a microblog - there are some days where I posted multiple times a day, on different trains of thought.

1999 was a crazy, interesting time.

I was working in the middle of the first dot-com boom, right in the center of it all. I quit my job at a gaming company for a jump in responsibility and a share of a streaming music startup right in the middle of the Napster mess. I was in the meeting on business deals where we danced around money, because no one was sure who should be paying whom. Do we pay for exposure, or do they pay for content?

There were 3 search engine companies within a couple of blocks of me. Hotwired became the cool new site. Friends at web companies were charging clients like they were attorneys, getting them a presence on that web thing that they didn't understand.

South Park, a little green oasis in the SOMA area of San Francisco became the center of "Multimedia Gulch". Companies that had been focused on CD multimedia moved to web design and creative services.

It all went a little too far. fuckedcompany.com documented some of the excesses, like flake.com, a portal for breakfast cereal lovers, and a company down the street that had their coming out party on a Tuesday and closed the doors on a Thursday.

[oh, the parties - it seemed like someone was getting a round of funding and throwing a party in their converted warehouse/sweatshop space. One of the guys at my startup hosted an email list with all of the "private" parties going on almost nightly in SOMA. The recyclers in the area had a field day with collecting empty beer cans and bottles...]

By mid 2001, the money had started drying up, Aeron chairs and office furniture were available at bargain prices from closed-door dot-coms. 9/11 ended the boom once and for all.

A friend of mine, a San Francisco native, went through his address list in 2002 and realized that two thirds of his contacts had left the city as quickly as they'd come a few years back.

But, it was a good time while it lasted.

posted at: 11:53 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 11 Apr 2024


Looking at how this blog is shaping up, it reminds me of my first iteration of a blog, back when I was consulting and shooting way too much film.

I found it...

20 years ago, a kind of daily journal of things I found significant, trivial goings-on, photos I'd shot while working in San Francisco and things I wanted to save in Google's cache lest they dissapear.

Man, that was a long time ago - a whole life ago. Most of the photos are of places that no longer exist, old architecture replaced with new.

posted at: 11:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Smol Protocols

I like the idea of supporting alternative "smol web" protocols. While part of me likes sticking with low-tech HTML (minimal use of CSS, no scripts, static content), someone on the BBS brought up an interesting point - you still need to use a modern browser for security's sake, and that opens up all sorts of privacy issues - not to mention they're overkill for rendering basic HTML.

I'd love to find a lightweight, supported browser that didn't support any of the bloat that's been added over the years.

Gemini is nice, the markup is simple, but someone complained that it's SSL only. I don't see that as much of an issue, I prefer encrypting everything to make the target data pool larger. Encrypt your shopping list.

That leaves us with Gopher. The markup is a little more difficult, although it would come back to me after decades. It's not encrypted, not a big deal given the content (although, see my previous comment...). When Mozilla took gopher support out of Firefox, I thought that would be the end of it, but I found a Gopher client for Windows - and now I found Lagrange, a cross-platform browser that does Gopher and Gemini, I'm quite happy.

If only it would support basic HTML, I'd have a perfect SMOL WEB browser...

posted at: 09:02 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 26 Jan 2024


I took a quiet afternoon alone recently to do some homelab housecleaning. Breaking one of my primary rules of homelabbing (don't replace it if it ain't broke) I replaced an 8 port gigabit ethernet switch (saved from a dumpster at work when it wouldn't support 802.1x) with a smart switch that supports VLANs (on sale for 40% off).

Put my Linksys router back in place, running OpenWRT. My plan is to set up a VLAN for a guest/IoT network, a separate VLAN for PCs and media servers and another VLAN for my test Windows network.

After setting all this up, out came the canned air. My NAS sucks in dust like no one's business, so I took it offline, took the drives out and blasted the dust out of it. It's much quieter now.

Then, I replaced my hodgepodge of network cables, all different colors and all too long, with shorter black cables for the lab and color coded cables for uplink to my switches.

Took the back off of my "server", a Lenovo Thinkpad. Replaced the thermal paste and blew the dust out.

After all that, my UPS started beeping and flashing a REPLACE BATTERY warning. Got a new battery in a couple of days later, and APC has a battery recycling program, which means one less dead hardware item lying around.

For a sysadmin, this was a relaxing day.

posted at: 09:45 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 16 Jan 2024

Write Once, Never Edit

One thing I've realized with blosxom - posts are displayed based on their modified date, not their created date. So, if I find a typo and correct it, the post goes to the top of the display. Looking at man (1) touch, I can pass a date string to the command and reset the modified date, but that seems overly complicated.

Better to leave posts as-is, errors and all. This isn't meant to be polished, by any means.

posted at: 09:48 | path: | permanent link to this entry


I found my old Flickr account from the 2000s with 18 pages worth of photos. Going back through them was a nostalgia trip - I shot a lot of film in the early 2000s, I'd discovered lomography and was working in a subject-rich environment, San Francisco. It was a town going through a lot of change, and some of the buildings I captured were gone in the following weeks and months.

There's a lot to be said for pocketable cameras. With a LOMO, I'd leave the focus at 8-10 feet and in sunny weather (or shooting with ASA 400 film), you'd probably get your subject in focus. Reach in your pocket, shoot, repeat. I've been shooting again with an old Canon digital pocket camera, but it's not quite the same.

With my phone I need to pull it out, unlock it, press the camera app, wait for it to load, then sight and shoot. It's just not the same.

posted at: 09:44 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 12 Dec 2023

Internet Nodes...

Reading The Hacker Crackdown and felt nostalgic at the term "internet node".

Back in the '90s, having an internet presence meant having a box sitting at your employees colocation facility or if you were lucky, on the end of your home DSL connection. I ran Linux as a firewall, web server and mail server on my home connection, others were into the *BSDs, and one friend of mine ran IIS on a DEC Alpha workstation running Windows NT for MIPS processors. I blogged, had a couple of mailing lists, shared secondary DNS for people who offered secondary DNS for me, and ran Jabber for a short time.

I miss those days where you felt like an active participant in the network, rather than a "consumer" of "services" provided by a couple of players.

I've started to see people running their own Mastodon nodes at home or in the cloud, and it's heartening to see people taking control of their presence again.

There are a ton of options nowadays for a home internet node. A Raspberry Pi can suffice. The old PC you have in your closet could do just as well. Some routers can load OpenWRT software, which turns your proprietary router into an embedded linux system that routes, firewalls and can run small apps like static web servers.

I run realitycheckBBS, a telnettable bulletin-board system I'm run since 1991. With my BBS software, I've got traditional telnet and web-based message boards, mailing lists, file areas via FTP, a functional web server with blogging and templates, news server, mail server and IRC. It's all running on a Windows box, but I could easily move it to Linux and get a standalone web server like NGINX or Apache to more easily build non-BBS web apps.

Running this blog is another guily pleasure. I started off with a daily personal blog in 2000. It varied between being a photblog, a personal blog and a place to store techical information I wanted to save. It's now all photos, and another domain hosts a "brand" site with the technical information from the past and new technical info.

I'm running Blosxom, a web blogging tool I remembered from back in the '90s, when PERL was *the* thing - another guilty, nostalgic pleasure.

Stream-of-consciousness blogs fell by the wayside with Twitter and Facebook, it's nice to buck the trend.

posted at: 09:09 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 07 Dec 2023

Back to Photography

Does anyone miss photography? With an actual camera? I burned through a *lot* of film in the early 2000s, and complemented film with shooting on early digicams. I'd say I shot more photos with a camera phone, but those photos were less creative, less planned, and less thought out.

I miss that sense of combining the surroundings with my vision that cameraphones don't seem to capture.

I have a handful of decent digicams from the mid 2000s, a DSLR that currently has a lens focus issue, and 2 prosumer cameras. I'm planning on taking one with me when I go out. The problem is, I need to look harder for subjects. My best photography days happened when I was working in San Francisco; it's a subject-rich environment, from candid people shots to geometric architecture, street abstracts and urban decay are all within a 30 minute lunch walk.

My photography is available at www.kataan.org if anyone's interested.

posted at: 10:51 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 06 Dec 2023

How it all started.

I picked up a Casio FX-3600p calculator on eBay recently.

I took a calculus class in college from a professor who inspired me. He'd grown up in a world where people did calculations by hand, and he saw calculators as tools that would free mathmeticians from grunt work and let them do the theoretical work, the dreaming. He required students to spend a little more and get programmable calculators. We spent the semester getting to know our calculators and getting to use them to do all of our heavy lifting, so to speak.

Before that class, I mostly used computers to play games. After that class, I saw calculators and computers as tools to do the repetitive, error-prone work and started programming in earnest.

I was a poor college student, so I picked the Casio - it was the cheapest option available. Other kids splurged on the HP 41CV or HP 71 calculators, which I would have loved to have. I have an HP 41 emulator on my phone, that's the closest I'll come to one.

The FX-3600p is a lightweight compared to today's graphing calculators - it could store two programs in memory and each was limited to (I think) 38 steps. That was enough to store equations and let you run through several iterations to graph it, saving a ton of time.

It does have its charms, though. The calculator I received arrived in great shape, and the original lithium CR2025 battery is still going strong.

posted at: 18:04 | path: | permanent link to this entry

The End of Putty?

I'm working with Windows Terminal on my Windows 11 desktop, and it's a nice environment. I can run my WSL terminal, Powershell and DOS command shells in one tabbed interface. I loaded my public keys into my profile and am using the SSH command in Windows to connect. After years of relying on Putty, I'm thinking I might not need it anymore. I'm starting to use tmux with my SSH sessions, I suppose I could cheat and open several SSH sessions at once in different tabs under Windows Terminal.

posted at: 16:42 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 27 Nov 2023

Exploring smol

I've run an environment in DOSBOX for reading BBS messages with a QWK reader, a handful of DOS utilities, my trusty copy of Qedit, and Xtree. Editing like it's 1989, all over again. With mTCP, I have a handful of TCP utilities that work in DOS. Using DOSBOX's serial port redirection, a DOS COM port can look like a TCP port. Set COM1 to port 23, open a terminal program like Telix, enter ATDT and you're connected via telnet. I've thought about setting up an IRC client, Lynx for DOS, a terminal client, a DOS word processor, an old copy of Lotus 1-2-3 I have laying around and see how long I could survive.

posted at: 08:36 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 22 Sep 2023


I did finally find a system upgrade, a Dell Optiplex 5070 - it's got an NVMe slot for a future upgrade, 9th generation i7 and 64 GB of RAM. USB 3 and USB-C on the front panel. TPM 2.0 for my eventual move to Windows 11. It was a little bare-bones compared to a consumer-grade Inspiron, since it's most likely a business lease return. $25 got me a wifi/bluetooth M.2 card and a SD card reader for the front to flesh out some of the missing conveniences. It's a nice little system, albeit boring. I'm tempted to break out my rattle-cans and spray it a random color, like we did back in the '80s with boring beige boxes. I sprayed all of my drive faceplates a sickening bright color of green or fluorescent orange and felt like I was pretty 1337. What did we know?

posted at: 09:26 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 16 Jul 2023

Quiet Afternoon

I noticed by old PC was running hot when I *accidentally* ran CoreTemp (I was trying to run another program using search from the Windows Menu). 61C at idle seemed a bit high, 68C when running loads moreso.

Thought it was time for a cleanout, so I took it apart, vacuumed the heck out of the inside of the case, got the sticky dust off of the cards and the motherboard with a nylon paintbrush. Took the CPU cooler off, dusted off the heatsink, cleaned all of the fans thoroughly. Removed the dried thermal paste with alcohol and cotton swabs, and placed a thin coating of new paste on the CPU. One last blow-out with compressed air, re-assembled the case, fired it up, and now my system is running at 29C.

Not bad for 30 minutes' work.

New computers are a LOT easier to work on than when I started fixing PCs. Remember masses of too-long tangled ribbon cables, multiple ISA cards for IO, and full-height disk drives?

posted at: 09:57 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 10 Jul 2023

What to do?

I've got a deadline to spend money on a new PC. A nice problem to have, by the way.

I've typically gotten by with older hardware and gotten a lot of life out of it (10+ years out of a Dell Precision Workstation T3400, 5+ years out of my current Dell Inspiron 3847 desktop) but I'm looking to make a leap with the next desktop system I buy.

I've had SATA-3 SSDs in my desktops for some time, I'm looking for a desktop with NVMe storage - I think they'll be useful for longer than sticking with SATA. TPM would be nice, as Windows 11 will require it.

My current system has a 4th generation i7, it seems that newer i5s will run circles around it. I still would like an i7 at least.

A tower PC case makes more sense - trying to cram another drive into a SFF case is a pain, and I'm always worried about cooling and airflow.

The Dell 7080 looks like a good choice, renewed, they're inexpensive - they can take a lot of memory and support NVNMe.

posted at: 08:16 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 09 Jul 2023

Testing long lines

Here is a test of word wrapping long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long lines. Yay!

posted at: 22:18 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 06 Jul 2023

My Work Environment

Many people are working from home exclusively or a couple of days a week as part of a hybrid work environment. With a few tweaks, a home office can do double-duty nicely.

My home office has evolved recently, as I've written about previously. I have a desktop PC with a 34" ultrawide monitor and work laptop with a 14" screen. I want to use the big monitor for everything. I plugged my laptop directly into my monitor's second HDMI port and bought a Logitech MX keyboard and mouse that pair with up to 3 devices. Now, I can use my desktop monitor, keyboard and mouse with either system.

Audio was the next challenge. I started with a pair of headphones on my work laptop and another on my home desktop, but had to switch back and forth, and deal with 2 sets of cables.

I bought a Jabra Elite 45h wireless headset. It's noise isolating, has great battery life, good microphone performance without a boom microphone (I felt so 2000s before!) and it can sync to 2 different devices.

I bought a pair of Creative Pebble V2 desktop speakers mostly for looks and to streamline cabling - they're USB-powered. I had them plugged into my desktop, but realized when switching audio devices that there was a listing for my monitor HDMI connector. I did some poking around behind my monitor and found a 3.5mm headphone jack. Plugged the speakers into my monitor and now I have room audio that plays with the active HDMI connection!

My printers have always been networked, so no office changes were needed to enable me to print from my work laptop.

My only non-shared peripheral is my trusty Logitech C920 webcam many years old and hasn't failed me yet, while providing good 1080p video of my office.

My next challenge? Office lighting.

posted at: 08:34 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 04 Jul 2023

Blosxom weirdness

I just realized that going back and editing one of the text files Bloxsom uses resets the modified-by date and puts it at the top of the list.

posted at: 12:28 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Another day, another editor

Playing with .vimrc files for the first time in ages. Looking for a nice medium contrast theme. Nano is another editor I haven't used in a minute. I seem to recall a way to have nano auto-wrap long lines, as it is now I need to hit alt-J to wrap the whole file.

tilde.chat, the IRC server shared by the other tildes has a fun trivia channel - I'm keeping it running in the background when I work.

On the retro front, I just processed a request for a Fidonet node number from a sysop running a mailer he wrote himself, running on OpenVMS. That's got to be a first, especially since he's writing his mailer from scratch.

I have a couple of friends who ran obsolete, orphaned hardware from a time when computers weren't so boring.

One of them rescued a MIPS-based Windows NT 3.51 system and ran a web site on an old version of IIS for many years past its practical life. Another ran AI/X on an IBM PowerPC desktop system and ran his web site on that for years.

My foray was running a Sun SparcStation 2 with 48 megabytes of RAM. I used that system as a development box and a backup to a Sendmail bastion host for years, reading mail from Exchange in PINE.

posted at: 12:27 | path: | permanent link to this entry

I've forgotten more....

HTML than I remember. I've been hand-hacking my blosxom template and adding inline CSS - and it's been a good 15-20 years since I did this by hand. When did Allaire Homesite come out? 1997? 1998? I worked at the company that bought Allaire and killed Homesite within months of the company purchase, to prevent Homesite from taking sales from their much more expensive tool. I wondered why they bought it in the first place... I miss the old web - the hand-hacked, non-federated, non-social networked web. This is my stroll down memory lane.

I remember trying blosxom when I'd first heard of it, probably about the same 1997-1999 timeframe? It seemed like that's when I remember the first tilde pages and the first web sites owned by real people. I don't think I ever got it running in production, it was probably a little too soon. My first blog attempt was hosted on a Linux box at my house, the content was written on Blogger, and back then, blogger could FTP the static files to your web server. I'd use a Windows app like w.bloggar to write the entry, upload them to Blogger, and Blogger would upload the files to the linux server sitting next to me.

Seemed a little roundabout, but we were happy to be able to serve web pages at all, let alone do it efficiently.

posted at: 12:26 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 03 Jul 2023

Second Post

Not logging onto tilde.club as much as I should, I should really be avoiding social networks at all costs[1]. I do like tildes, they're a nice throwback to local social nooks. Dial-up BBSes had a different kind of flair, one where one sysop was the creative force. With tildes, each personal page is its own creative outlet. They're Just noticed that blosxom doesn't do anything with hard returns, so I guess flowing paragraphs is were it's at. [1] except @poindexter@tilde.zone, that is...

posted at: 15:12 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 08 Dec 2022

First Post

I'm playing around with blosxom, an old meta-CMS that predates Wordpress. I used this briefly years ago as an alternative to Blogger, when it started to get complicated. We'll see if this works. I've been playing with Gemini capsules and Gopher blogs, but there's a lot to be said for simple HTML.

posted at: 21:50 | path: | permanent link to this entry