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Review:The Story about Ping

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the it-all-makes-sense-now dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 71

Doc Technical, one of our highly trained book reviewers, has submitted for us Marjorie Flack, Kurt Wiese's book The Story about Ping. A rare technical manual, this is one of the few computer books in the field in which the illustrator is as important as the author. To truly understand the glories of Ping, click below to read more. Yes, we know it's on Amazon. They stole it from us. Or Doc provided it to them. Using deft allegory, the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix's most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, as their book first appeared in 1933, years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.

The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).

The title character -- er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear.

The book avoids many of the cliches one might expect. For example, with a story set on a river, the authors might have sunk to using that tired old plot device: the flood ping. The authors deftly avoid this.

Who Should Buy This Book

If you need a good, high-level overview of the ping utility, this is the book. I can't recommend it for most managers, as the technical aspects may be too overwhelming and the basic concepts too daunting.

Problems With This Book

As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults. There is no index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command line options well enough, some review of them seems to be in order. Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure.

But even with these problems, The Story About Ping has earned a place on my bookshelf, right between Stevens' Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment, and my dog-eared copy of Dante's seminal work on MS Windows, Inferno. Who can read that passage on the Windows API ("Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous, So that by fixing on its depths my sight -- Nothing whatever I discerned therein."), without shaking their head with deep understanding. But I digress.

For my next review, I will discuss the internals of several well-known routing protocols as described in the Old Testament. New contemporary evidence points to the possibility that Job was a sysadmin on an early MULTICS system.

Buy this book over here and Slashdot gets a little money. It'll buy Rob and I 0.5 beer.

Doc Technical is not a real doctor, nor does he play one on TV. Hell, Doc Technical could never even fit on a TV. Well, maybe a bigscreen.

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71 comments

I'm waiting.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026329)

I'm waiting for the second edition.. It's supposed to cover smurf attacks.

ROTFL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026330)


I _must_ get this book. I know a number of people who really need such a highly technical and historical introduction to ping.

Themes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026331)

Hey, has anyone found a site for ping themes yet?

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026332)

funny. very funny.

this posted anonymously because i can't remember my password.

Pinging duck (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026333)

He's really cute, I want to hug him.

The real story of ping. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026334)

Ping was written by Mike Muuss [arl.mil] . Check out The Story of the PING Program [arl.mil] . (And wow, it's a .mil site....I haven't been to one of those in a long time.)

--Mike Gebis, gebis@ecn.purdue.edu

The first book you need is a dictionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026335)

You might want to look up the meaning of
anthropomorphize

0.5 beer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026336)

Is that 0.5 beer, or Beer 0.5? I know you guys are subjecting yourselves to Vitamin R again...or have you resorted to Black Lab?

Oh wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026337)

I actually had this book as a kid.. I never knew it was about the internet.. I always thought Ping was a rather stupid name for a duck.... :-)

otto

Book Review Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026338)

I'd like to see a review of Ezekiel 23 as the forshadower to the explosion of the most popular use of the Internet. Gee, Usenet too.

Go read it. The book of Ezekiel could not be distributed on the Internet if the Communications Decency Act was in full force.

RFC 1149 IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026339)

"Ping" actually has a lot of solid technical meat.

Your aligorical treatment of this soaring manual flies in the face of us BOF's who are porting proven, tried technology to high flying new technologies.

Please see the below link.

RFC 1149: A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers

http://burks.bton.ac.uk/burks/internet/rfcs/rfc1 149.htm

Dr Ed VurgnSurgn
Director of the Society to Promulgate Large Avians into Technology Systems(SPLATS)

This explains it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026340)

I had "Ping the Duck" as a child. (in fact, now my daughter has it).

No wonder I turned out this way.

The real ping? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026341)

I seem to remember reading once about one of the original TCP/IP gurus rigging a wrapper around ping which actually played a sonar style "ping" every time it recieved a packet so that he could fix a problem with some ethernet cable. Can anyone remember the full story behind this and, more importantly, post a shell script which will actually do this?

bible bangers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026342)

I totally agree. The bible is a crock of shit. My whole family is christian and I think they're crazy.

"If everyone else believes it, I guess it must be true..."

Oh the gullibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026343)

Sorry, I simply don't find networking concepts much of a source of humor. Granted, Ping isn't a very complicated concept, but why *not* illustrate networking behavior with a book about ducks?? Newbie admins need lots of analogies to help cement the more abstract terms ("packets?" "thinnet?" "ARPA?") Just because it's not put out by O'Reilly doesn't mean it can't help people. (gosh, that was a triple-negative!)

Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026344)

I've already got this one--really! (One of those weird people who managed to keep all their childhood books.) :=)

Chalk me up as another childhood Pinger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026345)

Yup, I read this book as a pre-schooler back in the late 50s. I'm afraid I was a bit slow on the uptake, though, since I never DID figure out that it was about anything but a duck. However, this does understand why, when I went to school to learn networking, why certain parts of TCP/IP just sounded so . . . well, familiar.

-- Just Another Anonymous Coward

Another O'Reilly book to check out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026346)

It's been in their catalog for quite some time, and ought to be in the collection of every programmer you know. A rather small and succinct volume, it's titled simply:

Programming With Curses

Even though I use curses *all* the time when I program, I still had to have this book on my shelf, if only just for the title... :-)

No way! Kudos! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026347)

I read this book all the time as a kid! I was very excited when I saw this review. Maybe my love for this book is responsible for my interest in Unix-like operating systems.

Best book review I've ever seen on slashdot. Keep it up!

Dr Suess's Technical manuals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026348)

>> If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
>> And the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
>> And the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
>> Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!
>>
>> If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
>> And the double-clicking icons put your window in the trash,
>> And your data is corrupted 'cause the index doesn't hash,
>> Then your situation's hopeless, and your system's gonna crash!
>>
>> If the label on your cable on the gable at your house,
>> Says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
>> But your packets want to tunnel to another protocol,
>> That's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall.
>>
>> And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss,
>> So your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse,
>> Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
>> 'Cause as sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang!
>>
>> When the copy of your floppy's getting sloppy on the disk,
>> And the microcode instructions cause unnecessary RISC,
>> Then you have to flash your memory and you'll want to RAM your ROM,
>> Hope you're running Intel, 'cause your Apple's gonna bomb!

Great, Ping the Film, directed by Sam Peckinpah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026349)

"He's not a real doctor, He's an integer doctor. (Wait for it. Wait fooor it....)"

THUD!!!

Ouch!

--

BTW, like several others here, I didn't catch on to this till I went to the Amazon link - and now I remember having read this book as a child.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026350)

In the source code for Burroughs B6700 MCP, beside a a piece of code that is WAITing for an event that should never happen, is the comment "FOR GODOT".

Cracked me up first time I saw that.

Skeptics, critics, agnostics, oh my! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026351)

This is no surprise. Expecting a heathen to understand the Bible is like expecting a philosophy major to understand a quantum mechanics text. (no offense intended to philosophy majors) The Bible is God's love letter to me, and frankly, you have no place to be reading my mail.

*That* Explains It! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026352)

The ring around the neck was so that the ducks wouldn't be able to swallow the fish in the Yangtze River. The nasty fishermen wanted all the fish for themselves. If I remember, a bunch of cormorants were in the water (or flying around) too.

Paddle to the Sea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2026353)

As a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, I thought I'd tell you about the book we used to study the concept of packet forwarding in CS 489 (networks). It was called "Paddle to the Sea", and it was about how a little boy's toy craft passed through the Great Lakes on its way to the ocean. Along the way, helpful fishermen (routers) put the boat in to the body of water most likely to lead back to the Atlantic. Highly stimulating.

Edward Colone (epcjr@umich.edu)

Further trivial recollection. (1)

Eric S. Smith (162) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026354)

I remember hearing that story, too (though I can't vouch for the "original TCP/IP guru" part). FWIW, I think he was using either a NeXT or a Sun in the version I heard, and the sound played was a sample of the person's voice, saying "ping."

Read it in a magazine some time in the 1980s, I guess (how's that for rigorous references?). The incident I'm thinking of could have been a copycat of the one you're thinking of, mind you...

*That* Explains It! (1)

Ranger Rick (197) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026355)

Maybe you should read "Lord of the Token Rings", it has some startling insights. ;)

The real ping? (1)

John Campbell (559) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026356)

I keep a script around for doing exactly that, because a couple of my network segments have chronic problems... when they start getting flaky, I start the script up and wander around wiggling connectors until I hear the "ping!".

#!/bin/sh

while [ true ]; do
echo -n "ping"
ping $1 -c 1 | grep "1 packets received" > /dev/null
if [ $? = 0 ]; then
echo " PING!"
wavplay ding.wav > /dev/null
else
echo ""
fi
done

ROTFLMAO (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026357)

Wow -- I never knew my mother, a kindergarten teacher, was teaching her students valuable high-tech skills!

If we could just convince them to continue such education...

you guys keep amazing me... (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026358)

Posted by korto:

it will be a colector's item in about 30 years...
it's a sure investment...:\

Abraham's journey, Old Testiment (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026360)

In genisis Abraham is told to go on a journey, but he isn't told how to get where he is going, or why. Just a Get thee to Cannon. Obviously a foreshaddow of Layered packets where the content is of no importance, and while the destination is generally known, routers in between decide how where you will go next. Moses took the Children of Iseral on a similear journey, but he was hampered by the fact that like a true man he refused to ask the routers direction, and wanderd 40 years before he died, and his successor promptly asked which(1) direction and arrived.


Jumping forward a bit, we find King david who finger(1) anouther man's wife, and eventially got her with a child process. This (remembering the cultural differences of those days) made it nessicary for him to kill(1) the other man(1). He accomplished this via a different person, obviously a foreshadowing of distributed processing.


There is of course more to be found in this wonderful book or prophcies, but now that I've wet your appitie perhaps you want to read it yourself.

Abraham's journey, Old Testiment (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026361)

In genisis Abraham is told to go on a journey, but he isn't told how to get where he is going, or why. Just a Get thee to Cannon. Obviously a foreshaddow of Layered packets where the content is of no importance, and while the destination is generally known, routers in between decide how where you will go next. Moses took the Children of Iseral on a similear journey, but he was hampered by the fact that like a true man he refused to ask the routers direction, and wanderd 40 years before he died, and his successor promptly asked which(1) direction and arrived.

Jumping forward a bit, we find King david who finger(1) anouther man's wife, and eventially got her with a child process. This (remembering the cultural differences of those days) made it nessicary for him to kill(1) the other man(1). He accomplished this via a different person, obviously a foreshadowing of distributed processing.

There is of course more to be found in this wonderful book or prophcies, but now that I've wet your appitie perhaps you want to read it yourself.

Old Testament? (1)

Nate Fox (1271) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026362)

Maybe I'll write a review about Moses and the Exodus (obviously a forshadow of streaming media)...

Hahaha... (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026365)

I remember reading that book as a child. Obviously I was destined for computer greatness even then :)

What about those other great technical manuals, Jack and the Device Tree and Goldilocks and the Three BSD's?

Price Check (1)

Ralph Bearpark (2819) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026366)

Sorry, no more Price Checks from me. If Slashdot ever does turn into a Big Bad Business (please, no) then I'll start again. But as it seems to be they're genuinely scratching around for the next few (thousand) dollars to keep this thing going, then I'm not going to interfere any more with one of their few meagre revenue sources.

Rob, Hemos, does Slashdot's commission deal also work with Amazon.co.uk too? I could maybe use that more than the US version?

Regards, Ralph.

The first book you need is a dictionary (1)

swingkid (3585) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026367)

I agree. Proper grammar seems to be an odiously underappreciated art in this day. All you need to do is look at the use of "irony" (even in respectable publications) and you'll shudder with horror.

Silliness, Silliness (1)

dew (3680) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026368)

Someone hod too much free time. =)
David E. Weekly (dew)

Ping! (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026369)

I actually read that book as a child. When I was 8 years old, my parents bought me some Pekin ducks for my birthday. (Not to be confused with Peking ducks, which is what they are *after* you cook them.) I named the first one Ping. The second one I named Pong, even though at that age I had no concept of video games. They also bought me a part-Mallard drake I named Paddle. But anyway. 'Tis a good book indeed.

Inferno? (1)

Puff (3954) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026370)

You know, it may sound strange, but I once read that Lucent accually stands for "Lucifer Enterprises". Scary, eh?

Inferno? (1)

tetlowgm (4161) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026372)

Wouldn't you think that Dante's inferno would be about Lucent's Inferno? After all, same name.

Gordon

Oh the gullibility... (1)

Sean Hermany (4507) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026373)

Am I the only one that actually
thought this was a real book
for any decent period of time?

It wasn't until I tried the
Amazon link that I found it
was a children's book.

I suppose after the fake
JWZ death post, it would
have been more obvious
that this was tongue in
cheek.

I *DID* think it was funny (1)

Sean Hermany (4507) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026374)

Oh I found it funny in retrospect,
but it was much more funny that I
read the whole review believing that
some Unix nerds of the 60s wrote
a book about ping

Beautiful. Simply beautiful (1)

jht (5006) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026375)

It warms my heart to see top-quality children's technical literature reviewed in a place like /. Now we need a good review of adult literature like Waiting for Godot - the story of the Windows 2000 development project...

Waiting for Godot (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026376)

Reminds me of Granddaddy's old early data transport manual "Waiting for Baudot"

Good one. :-) (1)

Anonymous Commando (6326) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026377)

It's Monday, I have a headache, and now /. is playing mind games with me. I thought this was for real until I started reading the comments... guess that's a good one one me.

Keep up the good work, "Doc Technical" - just not on a Monday, OK?
________________________

We Used This in our LAB! (1)

joeslugg (8092) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026378)

Yes, at the company I worked for (one of the "Big Four" networking vendors) we actually had this in the center of our lab for reference! (Way to go, Pat!)

And now, as far as I know, it's at another big networking company (I forget the name; I think it starts with '3'). Hey Willie, you still got it?

An absolute 'must read'. Thrilling drama. It taught me a lot when I was starting out.

Have a great day, everyone.

Oh my god!!!!!! (1)

Miskatonic (8445) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026379)

I actually had this book when I was a child!!!

(Clearly, it was subtle impressioning which would lead me towards Unix in the future.)

Recursion Textbook (1)

artdodge (9053) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026380)

This reminds me of my first textbook on recursion, "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" by that master of modern technical writing Dr. Seuss. It's sitting on my office bookshelf, right next to Sipser's "Introduction to the Theory of Computation".

I had this book! (1)

V. Mole (9567) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026381)

Great review. I remember this book from when I was a child...I think I still have it somewhere. Little did I know that it would continue to be a useful professional reference.

VMole.

*That* Explains It! (1)

Aleksandr (10716) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026382)

I remember that book! I read it when I was kindergarten student! Hmm.. No wonder I turned out the way I did.

Can someone tell me what the ring around Ping's neck to prevent Ping from swallowing whole fish meant in the metaphor? :p

Actually, it is . . . (1)

roethavin (10736) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026383)

Zoopomorphize (pronounced zoh-oh-pomorphize).
That covers all animalae.

I suppose you could say avepomorphize, and just go to the birds.

And I for one am shocked (SHOCKED, I SAY!) at the appalling lack of knowledge concerning classical languages evidenced by /. posters.

Carpe Aptenodytes (sieze the penguins)!

Ooh goody, children's books. (1)

earthy (11491) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026385)

Somehow this screams for a computer networking episode of Sesame Street. Any CTW people lurking here? :)

Ooh goody, children's books. ROTFLMFAO!!! (1)

Pliny (12671) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026386)

You should be ashamed of yourself... Do you know how embarassing it is to be seen shooting orange juice out your nose? I do now.

Shouldn't it be more this way. (1)

rikkers (13038) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026387)

The boat captain of the wise-eyed boat, Captain Torvalds wanting to see if his friend Captain Stallman was on the river, creates a duck out of mid-air. He tags the duck with a collar around his neck with Stallmans name and then sets the duck on the river. The duck almost immediately materializes on each and every boat on the river (or at least up to any locks).

On each boat, the boat's captain sees his copy of the duck and looks at its collar. Now the boat captains on this river are all bloodthirsty. All boat captains who don't recognize the duck, immediately kill it.

If Captain Stallman is on that section of the river, and he sees the duck with the collar with his name on it, he accepts the duck with a big hug. He feeds the duck, then retags it with Captain Torvalds name and puts the duck back on the river.

The duck once again mysteriously shows up on everyone's boat. Where in we get another bloodbath of ducks being killed. Captain Torvalds sees however that his duck has returned. He is happy to know his friend Captain Stallman is on the river. He then kills the duck anyway, knowing it has served its purpose.

Now if Captain Stallman and Captain Torvalds are on two different sections of rivers separated by a lock, the lockmaster will help out and transport the duck between the two sections of river, but he never bothers to feed the duck. Just like on the first river section, the duck multiplies on each boat (and other locks). More blood is spilled. Other locks will let the duck pass, but after awhile, if the duck can't find Captain Stallman, the duck dies of starvation.

The end.

:-P

*That* Explains It! (1)

PunMaster (13617) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026388)

Obviously, the ring represents the maximum packet size, showing that Ping must not consume TOO much bandwidth...

Inferno? (1)

mjackso1 (14092) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026389)

nah, Inferno is an allegory the OSI layers. Literary circles debate endlessly about the two extra levels, though...

A book about traceroute? (1)

dmuth (14143) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026390)

I'd like to see a see a sequel to this book where Ping has little ducklings and it explains how traceroute works. :-)

Will Tim O'Reilly sue? (1)

YeOldeGnurd (14524) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026391)

Doesn't he have some trademark for technical manuals with animals on the cover?

Oh, this was written in 1933? That shouldn't matter! I'm sure the patent office wouldn't view it as prior art.

Got one, thanks... (1)

Doc Technical (16405) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026392)

...actually Doc Technical has a dictionary chip surgically implanted.

More succinctly, what we have here is perhaps best described as meta-anthropomorphism, where networking concepts are metaphorically described in terms of animals, who themselves are given anthropomorphic characteristics.

Thanks for attempting to clarify Doc Technical's use of the english language, unless your actual intent was to make him look stupid.

In that latter case, Doc Technical can but say, bite me.

Doc Technical

"Practice random acts of intelligence & senseless acts of self-control."

Pinging duck (1)

Edwin Martin (16409) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026393)

There's another story about a duck.

It's about a duck who pinged a lot: he pinged all the way to Antartica. Obviously he was called the pinging duck. Later he was called 'pinging' and eventually just 'pinguin'.

And we all know what happened to this pinguin during the 1990's.

Thwas/is my favorite childhood book (1)

pvoris (16414) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026394)

I'm quite please to have another reason to give it a read-through.

It's intriguing to note that in the end, ping was a bad packet; further, all successful packets must be bad and therefore harshly processed at the local host.

Now, if someone can just explain what was up with the breadcrumbs and those diving birds....

Dr. Science for the rest of us... (1)

BennsArrow (16432) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026395)

While a considered expert in the field of absurdus speculaitus, Doc Technical again asserts himself/herself as the preemminent source of supreme technical wisdom and knowledge by bringing to the fore this seminal study on the low level functioning of our favorite troubleshooting utility...PING. Without this great work, I feel I am truly missing the big picture. Thank you, Doc Technical, for again showing us how little we really know.

Not the only one! WooHoo! (1)

||Deech|| (16749) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026396)

HAHA! I've been refering to the process of continually waiting for Windoze to reboot "Waiting for Godot" for a year or so and so far have only found 2-3 ppl who even got the reference, let alone actually used it.
Nice to know there is someone else in the world who made the connection. :)

Ping (1)

IceFox (18179) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026397)

Yes, I remember back when I was just learning about pings and packets. What a good book. My parents didn't want to give me a fun book, instead they gave me a technical book. Look at what I have become!

Benjamin Meyer
NW Admin
Senior @ AHS

Old Testament-[OT?] and OpenSource (1)

justbob (83184) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026398)

I think both the old and new testaments were the first open source documents. The code was free and everybody could use it. Also, Moses had RFC 1, the rules with the capital R.

lol (1)

gr0k (113968) | more than 15 years ago | (#2026399)

What's really funny was when I first started reading this I thought it was serious. Then when I saw the book cover I was thinking "oh isn't that cute, they used the cover of that book I remember from when I was a child". Then it sunk in that it was a joke. lol

---
gr0k - he got juju eyeballs - http://www.juju.org [juju.org]
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