Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

Hey there! This article was written in 2005.

It might not have aged well for any number of reasons, so keep that in mind when reading (or clicking outgoing links!).

When good websites go bad

Posted 15 March 2005

This past week has been pretty intense, in that I had most all of my finals and related dealings due. Sleep has been at a bare minimum, and that's a stretch: Sunday night I only managed to take a nap from 5:00a to 7:00a, for instance. Of course, overhanging all of my procrastinating and hard work, my website got hacked. I had to shut everything down until I knew what had happened.


I came back to my computer to find that it was running full-tilt. I'm not "about" my computer giving 100% unless I'm actively using it, so I looked into what could be causing it. Turns out, the user account under which my webserver runs was causing the trouble. Except...why? I looked a little closer and discovered that it had spawned a rogue application that was connecting to several IRC websites. IRC is a chat protocol similar to AIM, except in this case, commands were being given to my computer through the chat messages that were being sent to it.

The trouble was that I hadn't upgraded some software that runs on my site, and whoever broke in guessed how to get to it and used a known exploit to take control. I don't know what they were doing, although I assume I was being used to break into other systems or send spam email. I've upgraded the software, so that hole has been closed, and the site is back up and running.

Remember that I go on Spring Break for a week-and-a-half on Thursday, so there won't be much time to start building the trust of my readers again.


Andy and I finished our ECE 361 project last Friday with the presentation of our design to the professor. We code-named the design "Mr. Billion". The name came about while we were discussing a Calvin and Hobbes strip involving Tracer Bullet: "What number would be big enough to keep the Derkins dame quiet and want me out of the picture?"

"The answer hit me like a .38 slug: 'Mr. Billion'."

Naturally, we had no choice but to label our paper "Mr. Billion: A Computer Chip" and refer to the design by that name. We told Prof. Memik that we thought the name was cool. He informed us that our definitions of what's cool apparently differ. Regardless, we aced the presentation.


Not so much, lately, but I'm working on it.


After having relied on my old Handspring Visor Deluxe for several years, it broke under the crushing force of my body falling on it in a stairwell my freshman year of college. Last Thursday I purchased a replacement for it as a birthday present to myself: a Palm Zire 31! I'm really pleased with the purchase -- I'll be able to remember birthdays better, which means extra brownie points for Kurt. YEAH brownies! ... I mean, points!

In all seriousness, though, the addressbook, calendar, and task list will significantly help me organize my life.


GNOME 2.10 has been released! I'm really excited about the release, since it now includes a movie player and CD ripper. The GNOME project continues to mature incrementally, and I'm excited to watch the polish the Ubuntu Linux developers continue to apply on top of the GNOME desktop. Ubuntu just continues to bring Linux to the masses, in a way that I haven't seen before. My mom uses Ubuntu, actually, so maybe she'll comment here on what her experience has been. (I love you, Marmie!)


I'm looking forward to Spring Break, which I'll leave for on Thursday. Be on the lookout for new pictures at the end of March. Now then, about that sleep...