zen.org Communal Weblog

April 22, 2011

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Want Ya, Tomorrow

Filed under: — brendan @ 20:30 IST

Today was pretty harsh, so I’m looking forward to starting over tomorrow.  Elana and the boys came in to visit today, but a jerk playing the role of security guard downstairs, for the first time in seven weeks claimed the boys weren’t allowed to come up to St Anne’s Ward (the cancer ward) to see me.  He argued with E that the ward should have called down to him if they were meant to visit.  This back-and-forth went on for a few minutes (at least).

E didn’t put up with it and just walked away, bringing the boys up.  (A nurse said the security guy should have called them.)  Patrick was in a weird mood when I saw them come into the room because of this, and it took some effort to get him past it.  Finally we were playing cards and he had his nice, newly-cleaned teeth smile on his face.  Eoin was scribbling in his activity book after trying and bailing on cards.  Elana was (I hope) relaxing in the chair a little, while the three guys were on the bed.

Unfortunately the visit didn’t end well; another patient had told the nurses that they were concerned about children being on the ward (fear of infection), so they had to leave about a half an hour earlier than we’d been planning.  (This never happened before when the boys were in to see me.)  The situation was really rough on both E and me.  Something of a shock, which we’re still processing, since it just put the stage lights blazing down on the fact that they’re at home and I’m not.

Processing and recovering: that’s what we keep doing (or are expected to be doing).  Not easy.

Invisible headphones

The guy filling in for Miss M (the amazing catering staff member for the hospital) while she’s got a couple of days off made it clear he’s listening to something I can’t hear.

“Cuppa tea?” he asked.

“Sure, with milk, thanks!”

“Sugar? Milk?” he continued to ask.

“Umm, just milk please.  And can I get a pack of the ginger nut biscuits as well?” (As well as the ones you just put down on the tray.)

“Sure.”  He comes in, puts down the ginger nut biscuits, and walks out holding the first packet, picked back up off the tray.

I wonder what he was listening to?

Smoke signals gone modern

Having moved beds, I’m now in a room a short distance down the hall from the nursing station.  One interesting difference presented itself compared to where I’ve been for the last few weeks.  People put on their thin plastic aprons and latex gloves—protecting patients from catching anything off the nurse or doctor’s clothing–outside in the hall before coming into the room.  Pulling the plastic out of the container on the wall isn’t particularly quiet, so we can hear the noise before anyone comes in.  Just enough time to hide the booze.

Geekfest morning

I’ll save you the technical details here (already in another blog post), but I succeeded in getting around the really crazy Web filtering which is place when using the hospital wifi Internet connection.  This means I’ll be able to stop seeing error Web pages with big red words telling me I’m not supposed to access information like “Multimedia Content” (mp3s), “Advocacy Organizations” (the EFF at eff.org), or “Freeware Downloads” (pretty much anything you can download for free).

Primary schools in Ireland use the same sort of filtering service, with different levels of coverage deciding what’s okay to see and what isn’t.  Apparently the hospital is more worried than teachers and principals.

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Proxy thru the VPN, baby

Filed under: — brendan @ 07:53 IST

The Internet connection in the hospital can be really picky about what I can and cannot visit for a website.  e.g., anything with an mp3 to play is blocked.  I can see why it’s necessary to do this at a primary/elementary school, but in a hospital?  It has some odd side-effects (again that word), including blocking at least part of what the TweetDeck client for Twitter/Facebook/identi.ca/etc etc etc.

Up until now, I’ve been using an SSH tunnel to be able to have a proxy for Firefox to get around this.  But something this morning made my brain think a little bit further: I’m already bringing up a VPN connection to home in order to be able to do the SSH connection to my home desktop anyway.  So what if I look at using that same desktop as a formal proxy, and not just an SSH tunnel?

I’d forgotten that I have squid running on my Ubuntu desktop anyway, to take advantage of its caching of Web content.  So I logged into home, edited my /etc/squid/squid.conf to make sure the line

http_access allow localnet

was uncommented, and did

sudo restart squid

Since ‘localnet’ is defined earlier via the ‘acl’ setup to include the subnet used for my VPN, it’s pre-destined for exactly this task.

And it works, perfectly!  And all pages come up dramatically faster not only because my connection at home is fast (yay UPC), and because the traffic is LZO-compressed thru the VPN.  It’s also taking advantage of the squid caching so lots of the content is immediately available from the squid server.  And by configuring my laptop to use it as the system-level web proxy (not just in Firefox), it fixed TweetDeck, too.

No more SSHing, now I can just leave it on all the time.

Warning: this appears to make the AdBlock Plus plugin for Firefox unable to actually do its job.  I had to install adzapper on my desktop at home and make squid use it.  I’m running Ubuntu 10.04, which changed the older approach to start scripts to instead do “service” things via “start”, “stop”, and “restart” scripts in /sbin.  So I had to adjust


to comment out one line and put in two replacements:

#start "$JOB"
 ( /sbin/stop "$JOB" || true ) > /dev/null 2>&1
 /sbin/start "$JOB" > /dev/null 2>&1

so the adzapper install script, invoked by

sudo apt-get install adzapper

can actually do its job properly.

It would appear I’m waking up here pre-loaded with geek urges. 😀

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