NetBSD on an Intel-based Mac mini


2006-10-07 02:19

Quick summary: NetBSD-current loads and runs beautifully on the Intel-based Mac mini.

To do this, you need Boot Camp from Apple. In my case, my goal was a single-boot NetBSD-only system. If you follow these instructions, you will wipe out your Mac OS installation, including all your data.

Step 1: Install Boot Camp. You have to have a fairly recent version of OS X; the 10.4.5 install disks I had handy didn’t work, but 10.4.8 did. That’s a 400MB update used to run a single program.

Step 2: Run the Boot Camp Assisstant. Doesn’t matter much how you partition the disk if you’re going to turn it all into NetBSD. Does matter if you plan to dual-boot.

Step 3. Reboot, and put in a -current CD. You can’t tell Boot Camp to use that CD directly, because it will only work with a recognized Windows XP install CD. However, when the machine is rebooting, you can hold down option and the machine will ask you which disk to boot from. Pick the CD. (Boot Camp will call it “Windows”, which is a sign that they really haven’t thought about other applications yet.)

Step 4: Run the installer. In my case, I jumped out to /bin/sh before starting the real install, and manually updated the fdisk table, removing the Apple HFS and FAT filesystems (but not partition 1, which holds the Boot Camp magic cookies), and creating a new partition, using the remainder of the disk, for NetBSD. (Type 169, which is the default.) Once that’s done, the standard NetBSD installer just works.

If you just follow the prompts, you should end up with a serviceable machine which has at least booted and will let you log in. Here’s what might be problematic:

1. The msk0 ethernet device may behave abysmally, producing cripplingly bad performance.
2. The default X server can’t drive the Intel built-in graphics hardware as anything but a generic framebuffer.
3. No SMP support.

Building a kernel with SMP, and uncommenting the acpi device in the kernel config file, resolved problems 1 and 3 for me. I didn’t uncomment any of the “at acpi” devices, just the acpi root device; this was apparently enough to correct the ethernet and SMP problems.

To get X working, you need the server. I used the xorg packages in pkgsrc: xorg-server, xorg-clients. Of course, this omits xterm, and won’t run because there’s no fonts. The fonts are in pkgsrc/fonts, not pkgsrc/x11, even though the server won’t run without them.

That’s where I’m at now. Ethernet working, wireless working. Haven’t done any testing with firewire or bluetooth.

You can get cheaper PC hardware, but I’ve seen nothing even close to comparable for small and quiet. If you are sick of the sounds of computer fans, this is your best bet ever.

Peter Seebach



Integris Mortgage: Dumb and arrogant


2006-10-04 11:36
Comments [6]

This looks like it’s gonna be a fun one. Will we get the madness and intensity of another Source Lending? The incoherence and babbling lunacy of Complex Capital? Only time will tell.

So let’s start at the top. I get a lot of faxes. A lot. Many, many, of them are mortgage ads sent by “lead generators”. The idea is that, just as it’s totally legal to hire a hit man, or at least legal to hire someone who promises you will inherit money even though he doesn’t say exactly how he will kill your parents, it is obviously totally legal to hire someone to “generate leads” for your business, by sending unsolicited faxes, even though you are not yourself sending the solicited faxes. The analogy is perhaps not entirely precise, but the legal effects are rather similar, which is to say, you might be able to get a judge to laugh openly at your stupidity.

So, this company called “Mortgage Services” sends faxes. That’s probably not a real name; rather, it’s a name specifically intended to make it impossible to identify them, serve them with paperwork, or anything. (If you have an idle moment, try calling one of these places and trying to get real identification. They will hang up on you if you push it, but they will never give any kind of actual company identification. If you talk real pretty, you might get them to admit that the “loan officer” is not at their company, but that they are rather a marketing firm only.)

When you call the response number for the fax, you are directed to a “loan officer”; that’s the guy at the mortgage company buying the leads. What that means is that the ads are being sent on his company’s behalf. The way the TCPA works, that’s the company you have a case against. You could in theory probably sue the fax broadcaster too, but there’s no point; companies like that (such as the famous simply dissolve in the night, leaving no contact information, while the people who ran them take a little money out of their offshore bank accounts to start a new company doing exactly the same thing. It’ll keep happening until the market dries up; that is to say, until the local mortgage companies stop paying for “leads” generated through theft, conversion, and tresspass to chattel. (Don’t the legalese words make it sound cool?)

Last April, I called “Mortgage Services” and gave them my name and city and some information about the size of house loan I might be looking for. (I did not, as a matter of happenstance, get around to mentioning that I am not gonna get a mortgage from the sorts of companies that send junk faxes; Northern Lights Mortgage, whom I sued for this a while back has since been busted for predatory lending, and it seems commonplace in the “mortgage brokers who send faxes” part of the industry.) I was directed to a man who was identified as “Jeff” at a company he called “Integris Mortgage, in Coon Rapids”. I got their corporate web site and such, and explained to them that junk faxing is illegal and I planned to sue.

Well, stuff happened, and I didn’t actually get around to suing. My mistake. They’ve since sent me a lot more faxes. A bit over a week ago, I called one of the six most recent faxes I had from “Mortgage Services” (now using a new 800 number), and got directed to… Jeremy at Integris Mortgage, in Coon Rapids. Same story. He doesn’t care about illegal, he wants me to call the fly-by-night scam operation whose real corporate name is a closely-guarded secret. I explained about liability. He ignored me.

So I got another one. And I called back. This time, Jeremy saved time and hung up on me.

I called their office, and confirmed that there’s only one Integris Mortgage in Coon Rapids. Yes, they send faxes; the receptionist assured me that this was not illegal, and tried to convince me that it was not Jeremy, but some guy at Mortgage Services, who hung up on me. Uh-huh.

So we have all the elements in place. They know they’re faxing, they get told that they can and will get sued, they keep faxing. The complete lack of surprise about the “I saw your fax” stuff makes it clear that they were already aware that faxing was happening. In terms of the TCPA, that’s willful and knowing even if they didn’t know about the law; the law cares whether you understood what you were doing, not whether you were aware that it’s been illegal for fifteen years. They don’t think anything can happen to them.

I am expecting lots of fun from these bozos. They’ll deny that it was illegal, they’ll try to claim I asked for the information, they’ll blame the third party. They will probably try to avoid actually identifying that company. They’ll accuse me of all sorts of things; they’ll talk about how I’m in it for money (heh), and when that blows up, maybe we’ll get another “it’s a lark!” defense. They will try to claim we don’t have enough evidence, but they won’t provide any evidence to the contrary. What with them being junk faxers, I think it’s pretty much a given that they’ll lie about it, and whine about how hard it is to make a living stealing people’s houses. (Of course, they’ll deny being predatory lenders. So do all the predatory lenders.)

As a side note, if you’re in the MN area, and you’ve gotten faxes from these people, you might find it interesting to give them a call. So far, every fax I’ve gotten in 2006 that said “Mortgage Services”, and that I’ve called back, has gotten me to Integris. I have no reason to believe anyone else uses that particular blaster; there are a number of mortgage fax blasters, so I’m guessing the other mortgage brokers use other blasters.

Anyway, fun ensues.

Peter Seebach

Comments [6]


Junk faxes and "the little guy"


2006-09-30 04:32
Comments [2]

I just created a separate category for fax-related (and spam-related) articles in my blog. It’s been over three years now since I first sued a junk faxer.

I still get junk faxes.

Occasionally, some reporter is suckered in by a sob story about how it’s all innocent small victims that are being sued, and junk faxing isn’t bad. It’s big corporate lawyers trying to steal the money of poor little us, who had no idea what was happening.

It’s bullshit.

First, it’s not “big corporate lawyers” in most cases. Of the lawsuits I’ve seen or been involved in, the vast majority are pro se (that is to say, non-lawyers filing without the benefit of a lawyer at all) or handled by just some guy. All but one of my fax cases have involved only one lawyer on my side. His heart is pure, though, so he fights with the strength of ten, and that helps.

Secondly, it’s not innocent small victims. Every time we actually get through the lies and excuses, we find that someone at the company made a deal where someone would fax for them. They knew what they were doing. In most cases, they’re even vaguely aware of the law.

Now, you might say “if they aren’t aware of the law, they shouldn’t get sued”. And that would sound really wonderful, except that it’s not how laws work. It’s not illegal to send junk faxes because the government wants to destroy small businesses. It’s illegal because junk faxes were destroying small businesses. Everyone who has a business fax gets bombarded with these things, and they are still a major cost and nuisance. Not as much as they were before the law, but quite serious. (And no, calling to be removed doesn’t work. It’s no more illegal to send after such a call than it was before it, so why should the faxer waste resources keeping track?)

That the junk faxes are illegal makes pretty much the entire argument stupid. It’s not as though people are suing for imaginary damages or claiming emotional trauma; people are claiming the damages defined by the law. Why are those damages more than cost of paper and ink? Because it costs money to collect, and it costs money to sue. There’s some analogy here to the various programs that offer people rewards for information leading to convictions, but our overworked public servants are even better off if the enforcement can be handled by third parties too. So that’s what happens.

The basic damages ($500 per ad) are fairly small. If I get a single fax, it’s hard to justify collecting. The treble damages provided for people who knew they sent faxes without permission are higher, but still not high enough to make it easy to hire a lawyer.

But let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that there was no law against junk faxes. Would it be moral to send them?


The fact is, junk faxes are pretty much theft. I think they formally call it “conversion” when, without permission, you take something that doesn’t belong to you and use it, rendering it unusable for the person who owned it. Paper and ink are just the start of this. I’m on my third fax machine now. In the time I’ve owned fax machines, I have gotten perhaps ten faxes that were not junk faxes. I am somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400 junk faxes.

Without the junk fax law, junk faxes were a lot more common; think five or ten a day, for every fax machine. Large companies may still get this many; a newspaper with 40 fax machines will probably get 40 copies of most ads.

All the stuff about established business relationships is a red herring. Frankly, it doesn’t apply in most cases, but even if it did, why not just get permission before stealing your customers’ resources? You’d better believe a lot of people will drop a vendor who harasses them at their expense.

But we still hear the “oh, I have to do this, why are you telling me to stop” line. It turns out there’s a word for it; these people are entitlement bitches. They think the world owes them a living. Junk faxing (in the absence of lawsuits) is an insanely cheap way to advertise to lots of people, because the bulk of the costs are borne by the recipients. Imagine that you could distribute a large full-page ad to a hundred thousand people, and have total printing costs of $0. Who wouldn’t go for that? Well, someone who didn’t like stealing wouldn’t go for that.

Instead, what we find time and again when we sue these people is that they are liars, they are cheats, and they are incompetents. They are at companies that are involved in predatory lending, or they are violating their card merchant agreement to overcharge credit card buyers by 3%. (Yes, I know it costs money to accept cards; card merchant agreements require you to eat that cost, and prohibit a surcharge for card payments. The “cash discount” is a clear sign of a company that is trying to weasel out of a contract.) These are the people who can’t make a living, not because some mean lawyer somewhere sued them for junk faxing, but because they aren’t willing to do their own work instead of making someone else pay their way.

Of course they complain about how innocent they are. You know the type; they’re never wrong, nothing is ever their fault, and if only everyone would give them a chance they’d be fabulously wealthy. A “chance”, for these purposes, is pretty involved. It requires:

  • Anything I need to make something work should be cheap or free.
  • If I make a gamble and lose, I don’t have to pay.
  • If I hurt other people, they can’t complain or demand compensation.
  • Recognition that, in any conflict, I am an innocent victim.

What’s scary is that they often seem to really believe this. From the idiot at Complex Capital who responded to a junk fax lawsuit by becoming a franchise for the junk faxing operation (installing hardware capable of dialing every number in the area code and sending faxes to every fax machine), to the lunatic Source Lending had sue my lawyer for suing his client, they’re all really that crazy. My latest (Integris Mortgage) is looking to be just as wacky and fun as the others.

The only problem with junk fax laws is that they have been weakened over fears of harming “small businesses”, who can’t afford to advertise. The same logic would have us allow a company that purchased something once from Office Depot shoplift from that store without penalty, because there’s no way they can afford to pay for office supplies.

So the next time you read something about how these mean, nasty, fax lawyers are picking on the little guy, think of that annoying kid in school who burst into tantrums when told to stop cheating. It’s the same person, all grown up and wearing a suit, but nothing else has changed.

Peter Seebach

Comments [2]


Satcom: We make up for incompetence with rudeness!


2006-09-14 15:27
Comments [4]

Okay, so, I did, sort of, get the call back from SatCom.

SatCom is a marketing company. Let’s see how proud they are of their brand identity.

Exhibit 1: The envelope.

Envelope - no return address

That’s sort of odd. You’d think that a global leader in any field would be proud of their identity. Instead, they omit it entirely. (The astute reader may notice the one clue they couldn’t eliminate; the mailing zip code on the postmark.)

Exhibit 2: The letter.

<img src=”/images/satcom001.png” alt=“Letter – no from address or signature”.

This letter is a marvel of vagueness. Note the awkward use of “the company”, to avoid giving any hint of which company is involved.

Exhibit 3: The policy.

The policy makes no reference to company name.

This is a marvel of weasel words. The policy so carefully described makes no reference to state or federal law; obviously, if they followed those laws, they would never have called us, because we are on both the Minnesota and Federal do-not-call lists, and have been for over a year. But to be fair, it’s possible that they comply mostly with this policy; this policy merely fails to guarantee any kind of compliance.

But once again, note the refusal to identify the source. BTW, they didn’t quite follow the policy; the person trying to pitch Comcast cable to me said nothing about removal of my name eliminating “important information regarding [my] service by means of both telephone and direct mail”.

But the real fun begins when I try to find out who sent this. Was it SatCom? Was it someone else? Calling in, I am told I must speak to Liz. I leave a message on her voice mail. She calls back. I ask. She says “yes, that’s from us”. I ask why it doesn’t identify them. “That’s what the law requires us to send, so that’s what we send.” After a couple of futile attempts to get her to explain where the law says that they cannot identify themselves, she makes the script explicit; she states that she will not say anything else, all she can do is repeat that. She has been “instructed” to do so. She cannot answer any questions; for instance, she cannot discuss what her company does to handle state or federal DNC requests, even though every telemarketing company is, so far as I know, legally obliged to honor those.

I have the call recorded. I may try to get a transcript made. It’s sorta funny, but mostly sad.

Anyway, just to be sure, I called back the number that showed up in caller ID for her call, on the off chance that it was a prankster trying to make them look bad. The front desk person told me I needed to talk to Liz.

Thanks, but no thanks. We already know Liz can’t say anything. I’m actually pretty sure that, strictly speaking, what she said is false. It is not true that the document I received is “what the law requires”. The law does not require an anonymous message with no identifying information. The law probably doesn’t require the various errors in this policy. The law does, by contrast, require handling of state and federal DNC requests.

So. Thinking about telemarketing? May I be so bold as to suggest that you might do better with “Bob’s Discount Shack Of Telemarketing” than with Satcom? If you’re the one hiring them, you are the one who has liability for their mistakes. (In this case, it’s Comcast, who still haven’t answered my questions.) Between the incompetence and the rudeness, Satcom has earned a definite place in my list of companies I hope never to hear from again.

Of course, now that they’ve got our DNC request on file, that might even happen. Or might not; what’s one or two extra laws between friends?

Update, September 15th

And, back to incompetence. They called me again. Not telemarketing, though. Rather, trying to call back the person I talked to at Comcast, they dialed my number, and were very confused. I was instructed to disregard the call. I don’t think I’m going to try to sue them for it (what with it not having been telemarketing), but it does encourage me to note that they at least had to call back.

I betcha they lie to him about what their rep said on the phone. Oh, how I loves me some phone recording hardware. Mmm-hmm.

Peter Seebach

Comments [4]


Routing calls at its finest


2006-09-14 13:15

So, we got some junk mail, which was interesting only in that, while it was addressed to my company, it was also addressed to our health benefits manager. By name.

We do not have a health benefits manager.

So, what’s even more interesting is that I know this person, and perhaps more disturbingly, I know that this person has a stalker somewhere out there.

After a month or so of queries to the company who sent us the mail, I was informed that the list came from Experian, one of the big credit reporting agencies; it turns out they have a sideline in business credit and in business marketing lists.

Well. I called Experian. After being on hold a bunch, I was informed that this person’s name didn’t seem to be in our company profile, but that the person I was talking to might not have full access to the record. Solution? Call “Commercial Relations” at a provided toll-free number. But they’re out today, and they’re only in from 8-2 PST on the days they’re in.

Okay. So I call their number just to see. I get a voice mail saying that I absolutely must have three pieces of information to get through:

1. My company’s “experian business profile number”. I have never heard of this.
2. My “commercial relations reference number”. I have never heard of this, but it sounds like a trouble-ticket number that I should have been given.
3. My company’s name and address. Hey, one out of three.

I call back to the original number to get these, and I am directed to a different person, who says it’s silly to send me to commercial relations; I need to talk to Lorne! Lorne is the guy who can find out sources of stuff on the lists Experian sells. I am given a (toll) number. I have left a message.

We’ll see what happens. I’m not very optimistic. Today’s been the day for marketing firms being silly. We got a letter today, with no return address, and no identification at all, claiming to be a Do Not Call policy. I called a company that I think might have sent me one, and was directed to the voicemail of the person who might know. No call back from them, either.

Or Comcast, come to think of it.

Add in about an hour trying to get one of my credit card companies to stop demanding that I put them on a conference call with the company I was trying to buy something from, and it’s been a pretty annoying day.

Peter Seebach



UPS, Round 3: They paid up!


2006-09-13 20:38

Okay, so, here’s the story. Two months ago (on July 12th), a computer I shipped via UPS showed up damaged. We filed a claim. I received a check on September 12th for an amount close enough that I don’t know exactly what they were paying, but they clearly paid the claim in a reasonably fair manner. (I honestly don’t know how the number was arrived at, but I think they reimbursed some portion of the shipping costs. Or the insurance. Or something.)

This is mostly weird only in that, through most of the process, UPS insisted they could not do this; they explained that their policy was that they paid only for materials, not labor, so they could not pay $2,400 on a $2,400 computer; instead, they had to find out what all the individual parts cost, and pay for them individually.

The process is weirder because, since we used one of their stores, I’m not even the person making the claim; rather, the local UPS Store is, and I’m just a third party. So I got absolutely nothing in writing except the actual check. I have no statements from them, no written policy, no explanations. Nothing. I have no idea whether the decision to pay the claim reflects their policy, or is just what they do after someone whines a lot. I have no idea what their real policy is.

They did, however, eventually decide that they do want the computer, so I’ll be by tomorrow to drop it off at the local store, at which point, it stops being my problem. Yay for things which are not my problem!

Peter Seebach



We miss you, August Moon


2006-08-31 00:51

Back before Big Bowl popularized the notion of pick-and-mix stirfry, August Moon was letting you pick your protein to go with any of their stir-fry sauces. They were a local place which reviewers described as “fusion”, with such fascinating concepts as “Scandinasian Stirfry”. They had an astonishing variety of interesting foods, and combinations of foods. We went there to celebrate when Spider bought his house. We went there when people visited from out of town, or for any other occasion we could think of. It was at August Moon that a waitress identified a particular piece on the stereo as Herbie Hancock, leading me to expand my musical horizons quite a bit. They had local art on the walls, and lava lamps on the tables.

My own favorite dish was the Spicy Imperial stirfry, generally with beef.

August Moon burned down a while back; my vague understanding is that the abandoned laundromat next door burned down. This was some time back, and they don’t seem to be coming back.

While cleaning today, I stumbled across one of the other reasons I loved that place so much: One time, when we asked for a recipe, they gave us one. Here it is:

Spicy Imperial Sauce

2 tbl salad oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tbl lemongrass
protein of choice
1 soup sp imperial seasoning
1 tbl fish sauce (concentrate)
1 tbl thick soy sauce
1 tbl oyster sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ladle chicken stock
1 1/2 ladle onion (julienne)
1/3 ladle scalloions (1 inch segments)

Heat wok until hot, add oil, lemongrass, garlic, ginger; stir until turns half brown.
Add protein, stir, quickly add chicken stock.
Add seasoning and fish sauce, let it cook about 30 seconds.
Add thick soy, oyster, cayenne, stir until mixed, add onion and scallions after 30 seconds, stir until done (1/4 ladle of liquid remaining).
Remove to plate.
If chicken is your protein, don’t include the scallions.

I have only one question about this: What is “imperial seasoning”, and how would we find out?

(Note: If anyone from August Moon ever asks me to remove this, I will, but I don’t think there’d be any point. The fact is, their cooks were talented enough that merely having the recipe won’t enable you to make the food as well as they did.)

Peter Seebach



The spousal book is now available


2006-08-30 13:50
Comments [2]

Wow. I mean, in theory, we knew this would happen, but it’s still sort of weird. But, apparently, The God Eaters is now available for sale. That’s the Powell’s link. According to Bookfinder4u, it’s available all over. Note that there’s two different ISBN numbers for this book; one starts with “978” and ends with “3”, the other omits the “978” and ends with “0”. (That is to say, the last digit is a check digit; casting out nines will explain how it works.)

We still haven’t heard back from the publisher we submitted Forge of Dawn to, and we aren’t sure why; we haven’t even gotten a rejection letter, but then, that’s Jesse’s curse. Jesse doesn’t get rejection letters, ever; people just don’t bother to write back. We don’t know why.

But now that we’ve got a book out, it’s possible that this could change; for instance, people might buy this one, giving us some basis for telling people that Jesse’s writing is saleable.

Peter Seebach

Comments [2]


UPS: We only pay for parts


2006-08-24 13:01

This may be of some interest to folks who are inclined to ship things that have actual value.

I recently shipped a $2,400 computer via UPS. It got busted.

Round 1: UPS refuses to pay for anything on the grounds that “the package isn’t damaged”.

To put this in perspective, this is a double-boxed computer. One corner of the box is crumpled to a depth of about two inches; that means we’re looking at crushing eight layers of cardboard (both sides and two lids, for each of the two boxes) plus the extra-stiff packing foam in that corner. They claim this isn’t damage.

Fussing ensues. They agree that maybe they could pay something.

Round 2: UPS will pay the replacement price of the parts — not labor. (Also, presumably, not the cost of getting the parts shipped, just their line item values.)

Now, this might sound initially reasonable, if you don’t do much with computers. Why should they pay for labor? Indeed. Why should they? “Mr. Smith, while we are very sorry that the painting was destroyed en route to your gallery, we cannot pay this claim; we need line items for the paint and canvas, which we will reimburse you for. We estimate this picture to have components worth about $50.” “While it is true that you insured this antique furniture for two thousand dollars, we are sending you instead the cost of a few pounds of lumber.”

The problem here is that reductionism is not a good philosophical approach to consumer products. Imagine being someone who doesn’t build computers professionally, and shipping a $700 computer you bought at a retail store. The computer shows up broken, and UPS offers to pay you $300 for replacements for specific parts. They will not replace the software bundle (writing software is “labor”), nor will they provide any assistance with getting the alleged replacement parts, or installing them.

This is, how you say, a bad policy. I am not real fond of FedEx in some other ways; for instance, about two years after I left my last job, they started sending marketing junk to the address I had on file. But that could be a legitimate mistake… And when I filed a claim with FedEx on a $3,000 computer, they paid $3,000. (They even let me have the destroyed remains, because obviously, they have no need for them.) UPS is offering to pay $1,700 for the parts, excluding the hard drives (which Seagate repaired), and wants everything else back. Presumably, they will complain if I don’t carefully disassemble all the parts to produce something closer to the abstract collection of parts they seem to think is under discussion.

So, based on this: If you ship anything which might have a component value higher than the sum of the values of its components, don’t use UPS. If they change their minds, I’ll post an update. Just be glad they don’t know that silicon is a fancy name for “sand”, or they’d be sending me $0.25 per chip for the Opteron processors, on the grounds that converting raw sand into functioning chips is “labor”.

Edited to add, September 13th: UPS finally paid the full claim, as though none of this ever happened.

Peter Seebach



Smashing! Hand!! With hammer!!!

(Personal, Politics)

2006-08-23 21:01

One of my favorite cartoons, Bob the Angry Flower, turned out a bit of political commentary:

There’s something oddly familiar about this.

Peter Seebach




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