Older blog entries for etbe (starting at number 1079)

Thinkpad T420

I’ve owned a Thinkpad T61 since February 2010 [1]. In most ways it’s a great system and it still does most things that I require, even though it inspired my post about how modern laptops suck [2].

Problems with my T61

The biggest ongoing problem with my T61 was the heat production, I’m not sure how much of it was due to the CPU producing heat and how much was due to the cooling system not removing it fast enough. But any serious computation for even a relatively small amount of time caused it to get close to thermal shutdown. But as I mostly use my laptop for reading email, a SSH client, and coding (for which the big compiles are done on servers) that didn’t force me to replace it. The next problem was the battery life, it’s expected that laptop batteries degrade over time so it wasn’t a surprise that after 3 years my T61 battery only lasted for about 15 minutes. A final problem is the screen which didn’t seem to be as bright as it used to be, it’s annoying but doesn’t compel me to buy a replacement.

T61 Failure

But in July my T61 stopped working, it appeared to be either the power supply or something internal related to power, it had been running but was suddenly powered down after being left alone so for some reason power wasn’t getting from the wall to the laptop. I initially thought that it was the power supply at fault and investigated the price of a new PSU and a new battery as well. The Lenovo online store [3] charges $71.90 for a new PSU and $113 for a regular capacity battery or $156 for an extended capacity battery (50% more power). So based on the assumption that the PSU was faulty that meant a cost of $185 or $228 (maybe more if postage is included) to get the old Thinkpad going again. I could probably get the parts cheaper from somewhere else, but I’m hesitant to buy batteries from sources that aren’t reliable in case I get one that’s been used.

Buying at Auction

I ended up buying a refurbished Thinkpad T420 (product ID 4236-J73) from Grays Online [4]. It was refurbished and cost me $306.35 including delivery. $306.35 for a new laptop including PSU was a much better deal than buying a new PSU and battery for $185 or more. It turned out that the PSU wasn’t broken (a different PSU also didn’t work with it) but then my Thinkpad T61 just started working again, presumably it has some intermittent fault related to power and needed to be replaced anyway (I use my laptop for work and can’t have it fail randomly).

One significant problem when buying a Thinkpad is that the model numbers aren’t specific to the hardware specs. According to ThinkWiki the T420 model ranges from a 2.1GHz i3 to a 2.8GHz I7 CPU, from 160G to 500G hard drive, and has either a 1366*768 or a 1600*900 display [5]. Auction sites almost always specify the size of a hard drive and usually the exact CPU speed doesn’t matter much for an auction purchase (2.1GHz is fast enough for most things). But the display resolution is a big deal, in this case Grays had multiple Thinkpads on offer with the same description and the same price so bidding on one with high resolution was quite important. Lenovo has a web site for discovering Thinkpad specs, this is the current link for it (it changes periodically) [6]. At that page you can specify the “TYPE” AKA “PRODUCT ID” that is printed on the back of a Thinkpad (and usually included in an auction listing) in the search field that’s currently described as “QUICK PATH” and get all the specifications. Lenovo really do a great job of providing all the details for their products (including ones that were obsolete years ago). But it’s unfortunate that their web site sucks, there should be a single URL for such things that’s easy to find and they shouldn’t use cookies to track which model you are looking at because it makes it really difficult to research two different models.

Comparing T61 and T420

I upgraded my new Thinkpad to 8G of RAM because RAM is really cheap. I bought it with 4G of RAM which didn’t seem to be quite enough as the hard drive is slow for paging (my desktop with 3G of RAM and a SSD performed well for similar tasks). Now it’s running really well, my new Thinkpad is a lot cooler than the old one (not being broken is a good thing).

My T420 has a screen resolution of 1600*900 which was a little disappointing initially when going from 1680*1050 (18% fewer pixels and 2% fewer than the T41p I used previously). But having a smaller screen means that the Thinkpad is a lot smaller and lighter. My T61 didn’t fit in most backpacks and laptop bags and was unreasonably heavy, it’s the type of laptop that looks good on a spec sheet but doesn’t seem so good when you carry it around for a few hours. Not only is the T420 a lot smaller and lighter than the T61 but the power supply that shipped with it is a lot smaller and lighter too. I might have spent $72 a few years ago to buy a lighter PSU if I knew that was an option.

Cost of Ownership

Thinkpads are getting so cheap at auction that I’m tempted to buy myself an X series as well. When a $300 item can last several years (my T41p was from some time before 2006, my T61 was from 2010, and my latest is from 2013) that brings the cost of ownership down to something like $0.25 per day. If I bought myself a Thinkpad X series (ultra light) as well at auction then I would be looking at maybe $0.50 per day for my laptop use which would give me the option of taking a light laptop to a conference and a bigger laptop for spending a day at a client site.

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Syndicated 2013-10-23 04:16:21 from etbe - Russell Coker

LUV Hardware Library after 20 Months

20 months ago I started the LUV Hardware Library [1]. The aim of the project is to provide a repository of free spare parts for computers for the use of club members. People who have parts that are good but which they can’t use can donate them and others who need such parts can take them.

Some people have criticised my choice of the name “Hardware Library” because the word is associated with borrowing while with my Hardware Library it is expected that noone will return the item that they take. The Wikipedia page about libraries is worth reading, my interpretation of that is that the essential aspect of a library is that it is a public collection of items that are useful for study and that borrowing is just one thing that can be done. A book library could consist of a service of printing free books on demand (anyone could do this with access to The Gutenberg Project [2] and a printer) or of just making them available to download. Many libraries don’t allow books to be borrowed, they just allow them to be studied and copied in the library. Also every general public library has reference items that can’t be borrowed, it’s typical for a library to have a full encyclopedia which is not available to be borrowed. Also with the Hardware Library people feel obliged to give something if they take something (as happens with a geocache), so there is an issue of returning something.

My main aims with the Hardware Library were to save people money on parts and to help the environment by reducing the need to buy new computers when old ones can be upgraded and remain in service. My next aim was to help people learn about hardware by providing free parts, when a mistake has no financial cost people are more willing to experiment and will learn more. I believe that those aims have been achieved.

More Successful Than Expected

One thing that surprised me is the social aspect that developed. I had expected that most people would just find some parts that they need and not look at it again for some months. I had also anticipated that some people would poll the Hardware Library every month in the hope that a part they needed might appear. I didn’t expect that people would look through it every month because they just like looking at old hardware. I also didn’t expect groups of people to hang out by the Hardware Library to discuss various issues related to PC hardware and Linux.

During the breaks in the main meeting the location of the Hardware Library often becomes a focus for discussions of various issues related to Linux and hardware. I think that this is really advancing the aims of LUV [3] and I think that members of other LUGs should experiment with similar projects.

Starting this didn’t require any special skill or authority. I just started bringing a briefcase full of parts to meetings and offering them to whoever was interested. Any member of any LUG can do the same. To start something like this you wouldn’t even need a collection of parts, you could just bring a box and ask for donations.

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Syndicated 2013-10-23 02:42:11 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links September 2013

Matt Palmer wrote an insightful post about the use of the word “professional” [1]. It’s one factor that makes me less inclined to be a member of “professional” societies.

The TED blog has an interesting article about Wikihouse which is a project to create a set of free designs for houses to be cut out of plywood with a CNC milling machine [2]. The article also links to a TED talk by Alastair Parvin of the Wikihouse project which covers many interesting things other than designing houses.

An XKCD comic has one of the best explanations of bullying I’ve ever seen [3]. If you aren’t familiar with XKCD then make sure you hover your mouse over it to read the hidden text.

The Fair Phone is a project to develop a smart phone starting with conflict-free resources and with fully free software (not like a typical Android build) [4]. It’s an interesting project and the price and specs seem within the normal range – so you’re not paying a huge premium for a conflict-free phone. Unfortunately they only have one model with a 4.3″ display, if they had a competitor for the Galaxy Note then I’d be interested.

Patrick Stokes wrote an insightful article about why “I’m entitled to my opinion” is a bogus argument [5].

Jim Daly wrote an interesting TED blog post interviewing Rishi Manchanda about “Upstream Doctors” who look for the root causes of medical problems rather than just treating the symptoms [6].

Brian Krebs wrote an insightful article about the value of a hacked email account [7]. If you are trying to convince your users to use better passwords then this should help.

Ron Garrett wrote an insightful series or articles on morality hooked on the premise of whether it’s wrong to torture kittens [8]. Part of his conclusion is that people who believe it’s wrong to do such things tend to be more capable of working in large groups and forming a productive and efficient society.

The TED blog has an interesting post by Karen Eng summarising Andreas Raptopoulos’ talk about using autonomous drones to deliver parcels in parts of the world that don’t have usable roads [9]. Delivering parcels (which would start with medical supplies but would presumably move on to commercial transport) by drone is apparently really cheap. Being cheaper than building roads isn’t going to be difficult but it seems that they are going to make it cheaper than paying people to deliver parcels even if the roads were built. The main web site about this project is www.matternet.us, they are hiring electrical engineers. Here is the link for Andreas TED talk [10].

The TOR blog has an interesting article by Emily Asher-Perrin comparing the different houses of Hogwarts [11]. It’s an insightful article about personality attributes and gives more information than is available in the movies (I’d read the books if I had time).

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Syndicated 2013-09-30 13:50:06 from etbe - Russell Coker

Hive Bluetooth Stereo Speakers

picture of Hive bluetooth speakers

I’ve just been given a set of Hive Bluetooth speakers by MobileZap (see this link for all their Bluetooth speakers) [1].

The speakers charge by a micro-USB cable so I started charging them in my car immediately after collecting them. To connect them to a phone or other Bluetooth device you just press the Bluetooth button on top and get the phone to be visible and scanning for devices, they identify themselves as “Hive”, after that they just work. My first test of using them was playing Ingress and the quality of the sound was impressive, I had thought that the Ingress recommendation to use headphones was due to the risk of annoying other people or alerting other players, but the quality of the sound was impressive and the internal speakers of a phone can’t do it justice.

After getting home I did some tests listening to music. For watching music videos it didn’t work so well as the sound was too far removed from the video, but the audio quality was very good. I listened to “Vow” by “Garbage” (a good benchmark for stereo sound) and even though the Hive speakers are only 16.5cm wide I could still notice the stereo effect when they were about 1.5m away from me. The audio quality didn’t compare well with my Bose QC-15 headphones, but for affordable and portable speakers it was quite good and an obvious improvement over the speakers that are built in to any phone I’ve used.

According to the Bluetooth Wikipedia page the range of a class 2 device is 10m and the range of a class 3 device is 1m. When my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is talking to it I get a reliable range of about 5 meters and a mostly working range of 6 or 7 meters (sound randomly drops out and gets choppy). It could be that other phones would support a longer range due to having a higher transmission power (either class 1 or being closer to the limits of class 2) and a more sensitive receiver. But it doesn’t seem likely that a 5m range is going to be a problem.

Volume and Quality

The speakers are rated at 5 Watt, when running at maximum volume (both through the phone volume setting and the volume control on the speakers) the sound is reasonably distortion free, as good as can be expected from playing an MP3 that’s not compressed with the highest quality. Sound Meter [2] reports the sound volume as almost 85dB on a Galaxy S3 and as almost 100dB on a Galaxy Note 2, that would be somewhere between the volume of a “busy street” or “alarm clock” and the volume of a “subway train” or “blow dryer” which seems like a reasonable description, I find it very unpleasant to be within a meter of the speakers at maximum volume. With the typical amount of background noise in my house I can play music on the Hive speakers at one end of my house and hear it clearly at the other end.

These speakers are more than capable of supplying the music for any party I’d want to host or attend. I’m not really into wild parties, but I think that anyone who has a one room party would be more than satisfied with the Hive speakers. Obviously the sound quality of portable speakers in a box that’s 16.5cm wide and 6cm high isn’t going to equal that of a full size set of speakers, but I think that hardly anyone who attends a party would expect better sound quality than the Hive speakers can provide. The aim of such speakers is to be portable, not really expensive, and to provide good sound quality within those constraints. I think that they meet such aims well.

Over the years there have been many occasions when I have used a Thinkpad to provide the music for a party and found it to be quite loud enough. My current Thinkpad is a T420 which can produce 75dB according to my Galaxy S3 or 85dB according to my Galaxy Note 2. So it seems that I only really need about 10dB less than the maximum volume of the Hive speakers.


The designers obviously made an effort on the appearance of the device. They have gone with the Hive concept and used hexagons everywhere. It really looks nice.

Unfortunately when I took the photo there was some dust on it which didn’t look bad to the eye but caught the camera flash. But with a matte black device there’s always the problem of light colored dust. Even with a bit of dust it still looks great as a set of speakers, the dust just detracts from the appearance in photos.

Line In

One of the features I looked for was an audio line input so I could connect it directly to a non-Bluetooth device. I’m assuming that this feature works as it’s something that’s difficult to stuff up when designing such a product, but I haven’t got around to testing it. Once I started using the device I just found that I didn’t have a real need for that feature.

One thing that it might be useful for is PC desktop speakers that are powered by a USB port on the monitor. Currently I have a bearable (but not great) set of speakers for each PC and I don’t need to change anything. But having the option of another set of speakers is very handy in case I suddenly need to make hardware changes.

Other People’s Reviews

When I review a product I generally try and get opinions from random other people if possible. My mother and my mother-in-law were both impressed by the Hive speakers and expressed interest in owning a set. My mother-in-law was particularly interested as she uses her phone to listen to radio stations from outside Australia (I’m going to get her onto Aldi for cheap 3G data ASAP so she can listen to Internet radio when travelling).

Generally the impression that other people have of this device seems to be very positive. It seems that Bluetooth speakers aren’t just a Geek toy.


While I’m very impressed by this product, at this stage I’m not sure whether I would pay for this one or something cheaper if I was paying for it. MobileZap offers a range of other products that look appealing at lower price points. It really depends on how much I use it.

I’ve just got a Makerbot Replicator 3D printer working and I’ve found the Hive speakers very useful for the purpose of drowning out it’s noise. If I keep doing that sort of thing then I’ll get enough use out of the speakers to justify the price.

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Syndicated 2013-09-23 08:43:22 from etbe - Russell Coker

Qi Phone Charging

I have just bought a wireless phone charging system based on the Qi Inductive Power Standard. I bought a charging device which connects to a standard micro-USB cable and receivers for the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Samsung Galaxy S3 phones I own. Both those phones have contacts in the back of their case that are designed for wireless charging so you can install a charging device inside them. The charging devices make the case fit a little tight, and the charging device is stuck to the phone battery with contact adhesive, this makes it impractical to change the battery on a phone with such a device and makes it a little more difficult to swap out a battery case. One nice feature of the Nexus 4 is that it has Qi charging built in, that saved me $19 and was also more convenient.

I believe that the main advantage of a wireless charger is to avoid the risk of damage to the phone if it’s dropped while connected to a USB charger. This allows the phone to be charged in situations where you might need to quickly or regularly unplug it to go somewhere. One example of how I might use it is when working at an office so I could charge my phone while at my desk and then quickly take it with me if I had to go to a meeting (sadly I have worked in many offices where they have so many meetings). Another example is for sysadmin work where I have to frequently visit devices to fix them.

The wireless charging mat that I bought from Kogan connects to a standard micro-USB plug, the good thing about this is that it’s easy to find cables and it can take power from any PC. The bad thing about this is that the resistance of the USB cable is a factor that limits the power that a phone can receive, when using wireless charging you have the limit of the cable resistance as well as some power loss from the wireless transmission. After any extended period of charging the charging mat feels warm to the touch and the phone that’s been resting on it feels warmer than usual. The warmth is an indication of energy loss which means longer charging times, a longer charging time isn’t necessarily a problem as the convenience of wireless charging can allow longer charging times, but if you want to charge your phone in a hurry before you go somewhere then wireless isn’t a good choice.

In the past I’ve discovered that the battery in a Samsung Galaxy S3 can’t be charged if the phone is at 46C [1]. 46C might seem extremely hot to people in some parts of the world (EG northern Europe and Canada) but the temperature in even southern parts of mainland Australia can get that hot and it can be hotter in central and northern parts, so phone temperature can be a real issue. Currently my house is at 21C according to a digital thermometer, the Galaxy S3 and the Note 2 are being charged from USB and report temperatures of 27C and 23C respectively. While the thermometer in my house and those in the phones probably aren’t really accurate it seems reasonable to assume that the battery of a relatively idle smart-phone that’s being charged will be a few degrees warmer than the ambient temperature. The Qi charger makes things a lot worse as it even feels warm to the touch. So maybe a phone on a Qi charger would be 8 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature or more. That implies that in Australian summer weather a Qi charger won’t be useful outside or in any building that lacks air-conditioning. So I think we can give up on the idea of using Qi devices to charge phones at a BBQ.

Picture of Qi charger on top of Samsung Galaxy Note 2

The final problem I have is that the Qi device is quite small, I took the above picture with my phone face-down because no part of the charger is visible in normal use. With that size I can’t just dump a phone like a Note 2 on top of the charging mat and expect it to work. I have to carefully place it so that it balances and so that the wireless receptor inside the phone matches the transmitter in the mat, if the phone isn’t placed correctly then the Qi mat won’t detect it and won’t supply full power to the transmitter.


I’m fairly disappointed in this device. The waste heat makes it unsuitable for Australian summer conditions and slows charging. The difficulty of correctly placing the phone reduces the convenience which is one of the major features.

The price was $19 for each charging card for the Note 2 and the S3 and $29 for the charging mat to give a total of $67. I think it’s worth the money for me to cover the risk of one of my phones having it’s USB port damaged. Using a Qi charger on occasion will decrease the probability of such damage and allow the phone to be used after receiving certain types of damage.

The prices of those phones nowadays are $389 for a Galaxy S3 (Kogan price), $250 for a Nexus 4 (when it was on sale in the Google store), and probably about $500 for a Galaxy Note 2 (last time Kogan offered them). So by paying $67 for Qi charging I believe that I’m getting some degree of damage insurance for just over $1100 worth of phones. It seems likely that the Nexus 5 will ship with Qi charging support and that the Galaxy Note 3 will also support an optional Qi charging card (which will probably also be $19 or some similar price) so the charging mat should be useful for a long time.

While I’m disappointed I don’t regret buying the device. But I would be hesitant to recommend it to other people and definitely wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t have a significant interest and investment in smart phones.

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Syndicated 2013-09-20 08:26:04 from etbe - Russell Coker

Advice for Web Editing

A client has recently asked for my advice on web editing software. There are lots of programs out there for editing web sites and according to a quick Google search there are free Windows programs to do most things that you would want to do.

The first thing I’m wondering about is whether the best option is to just get a Linux PC for web editing. PCs capable of running Linux are almost free nowadays (any system which is too slow for the last couple of Windows versions will do nicely). While some time will have to be spent in learning a new OS someone who uses Linux for such tasks will be able to use fully-featured programs such as the GIMP which are installed as part of the OS. While it is possible to configure a Windows system to run rsync to copy a development site to the production server and to have all the useful tools installed it’s much easier to run a few apt-get or yum commands to install the software and then copy some scripts to the user’s home directory.

The next issue is whether web editing is the best idea. Sites that are manually edited tend to be very simple, inconsistent, or both. Some sort of CMS seems to be the better option. WordPress is a CMS that I’m very familiar with so it’s easy for me to install it for a client, while I try and resist the temptation to force my favorite software on clients there is the issue that I can install WordPress quickly which therefore saves money for my client. WordPress is a CMS that supports installing different themes (and has a huge repository of free themes). The content that it manages consists of “pages” and “posts”, two arbitrary types of document. Supporting two types of document with a common look and feel and common important data in a side-bar seems to describe the core functionality used by most web sites for small businesses.

Does anyone have any other ideas for ways of solving this problem? Note that it should be reasonably easy to use for someone who hasn’t had much experience at doing such things, it shouldn’t take much sysadmin time to install or cost to run.

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Syndicated 2013-09-18 10:10:14 from etbe - Russell Coker

Is Portslave Still Useful?

Portslave is a project that was started in the 90′s to listen to a serial port and launch a PPP or SLIP session after a user has been authenticated, I describe it as a “project” not a “program” because a large part of it’s operation is via a shared object that hooks into pppd, so if you connect to a Portslave terminal server and just start sending PPP data then the pppd will be launched and use the Portslave shared object for authentication. This dual mode of operation makes it a little tricky to develop and maintain, every significant update to pppd requires that Portslave be recompiled at the minimum, and sometimes code changes in Portslave have been required to match changes in pppd. CHAP authentication was broken in a pppd update in 2004 and I never fixed it, as an aside the last significant code change I made was to disable CHAP support, so I haven’t been actively working on it for 9 years.

I took over the Portslave project in 2000, at the time there were three separate forks of the project with different version numbering schemes. I used the release date as the only version number for my Portslave releases so that it would be easy for users to determine which version was the latest. Getting the latest version was very important given the ties to pppd.

When I started maintaining Portslave I had a couple of clients that maintained banks of modems for ISP service and for their staff to connect to the Internet. Also multi-port serial devices were quite common and modems where the standard way of connecting to the Internet.

Since that time all my clients have ceased running modems. Most people connect to the Internet via ADSL or Cable, and when people travel they use 3G net access via their phone which is usually cheaper, faster, and more convenient than using a modem. The last code changes I made to Portslave were in 2010, since then I’ve made one upload to Debian for the sole purpose of compiling against a new version of pppd.

I have no real interest in maintaining Portslave, it’s no longer a fun project for me, I don’t have enough spare time for such things, and no-one is paying me to work on it.

Currently Portslave has two Debian bugs, one is from a CMU project to scan programs for crashes that might indicate security flaws, it seems that Portslave crashes if standard input isn’t a terminal device [1]. That one shouldn’t be difficult to solve.

The other Debian bug is due to Portslave being compiled against an obsolete RADIUS client library [2]. It also shouldn’t be that difficult to fix, when I made it use libradius1 that wasn’t a difficult task and it should be even easier to convert from one RADIUS library to another.

But the question is whether it’s worth bothering. Is anyone using Portslave? Is anyone prepared to maintain it in Debian? Should I just file a bug report requesting that Portslave be removed from Debian?

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Syndicated 2013-09-14 07:54:10 from etbe - Russell Coker

The 2013 Federal Election

picture of rubbish left after the federal election

Seven hours ago I was handing out how to vote cards for the Greens at the 2013 Australian Federal election. I was hoping that either we would have a Labor/Greens coalition or an outright majority for Labor. Unfortunately we got a Liberal majority in the lower house and it looks like some extreme right wing groups may get into the senate (replacements for “Family First” – the anti-Gay party).

For some reason the polling station where I was working only had volunteers from the three major parties (Greens, Labor, and Liberal) while other polling stations in the same electorate had volunteers from smaller parties such as the Sex Party and the Socialist Alliance.

The volunteers from the Liberal party ate McDonalds outside the polling station and afterwards McDonalds rubbish was left on the ground, the above picture isn’t particularly clear because I took it after 6PM when the polls closed. The Liberals didn’t care enough to put their rubbish in a bin, it’s an externality for them, if they get enough seats in the senate they will surely take the same approach to governing Australia. The Labor people didn’t take the effort to clean up the Liberal mess even though it wasn’t particularly difficult to do so, I think that’s the type of attitude that led to this election defeat. In the case of the McDonalds rubbish in question I put it in the bin so that when the primary school kids return on Monday their school won’t be too messy after the election. But in the case of the mess that is being made in Australian politics it will take many more Greens votes to allow us to clean it up.

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Syndicated 2013-09-07 15:10:16 from etbe - Russell Coker

Ownership of a Club

Last night at the Annual General Meeting we had a motion to disincorporate The Linux Users of Victoria (LUV) [1]. The proposal was for LUV to cease being an incorporated society on condition that Linux Australia (LA) [2] accepts us as a sub-committee. As a sub-committee of LA we would elect our own committee to run things locally but have LA hold the finances, deal with all the paperwork that the government demands, and generally do as many of the non-core tasks associated with running a users’ group as possible.

When we discussed this at the LUV committee meetings it didn’t seem like a big deal. But as is often the case with political discussions it turned out to be difficult.

There was a lot of discussion about LUV supposedly ceasing to exist, people seem to think that LUV is defined by having an incorporated society. My impression was always that it was defined by a mailing list and having meetings – and I was involved in both before there was an incorporated society.

Lurkers and Ownership

During the discussion we had some input from members who were typically lurkers who seemed to feel that their property rights towards LUV were being infringed, this annoys me. I think that if someone chooses not to be involved in running an organisation then they should choose not to concern themselves with the details of how the organisation is to be run. People who attend the meetings should have a say in how the meetings are run and have reason to be concerned about anything that might affect them and the opinions of speakers also matter. People who are involved with mailing list discussions should have a say in how the lists are run. But people who have never volunteered for a position on the committee shouldn’t be greatly concerned about the internal issues of how things are run.


Some concern was expressed about the financial situation of LUV and whether we would still get enough donations to keep it running when combined with LA. There was even some FUD suggesting that LA would just take our money (they had assured us that all funds and donations would be ear-marked for us). The current LUV financial situation is that Red Hat pays for the venue for the monthly meetings and the rent for the venue comprises about 2/3 of all donations. The remaining 1/3 comes from one company. So in the current situation if Red Hat ceased donating then we would have 18 months to find another donor or cease holding meetings before our bank balance became unreasonably low. If the company which gives the other significant annual donation was to cease doing so then we could operate for a few years on savings but we would need to find some other source of funding.

It seems to me that joining LA would give us more financial security. Then if Red Hat ceased paying for the venue then LA could keep things running until we found another donor, I’m confident that LA wouldn’t allow LUV to just shut down because of a shortage of donations.

If people are really concerned about the financial situation of LUV then they should urgently seek further donations such that if any one donor decided to stop giving then we could still operate as normal. To achieve that goal I think we need at least another $1,000 per annum. This issue of redundancy in donations is something I raise every time that LUV finances are discussed.

My conclusion is that people aren’t really bothered about the financial security of LUV except when they are looking for reasons to avoid change.

Doing New Things

During the course of discussion about the future of LUV there were a number of requests for improvement. One significant request was for more support for regional Linux users. Some years ago we held a mini-conference in Ballarat which went well. I think it would be good to do such things again, the cost is not particularly great and I’m sure it would be accepted by LA for funding, but we need to organise it.

Organising such events is something that anyone can do. Any LUV member can plan an event, get costs for everything that is needed (food, accommodation, travel, etc) and then pitch it to the LUV committee in terms of which things should be paid by LUV and which by the members concerned. We could then work on getting additional funding from LA if necessary. But planning an event takes some effort and it’s often effort that can only be done by a local. Finding a suitable venue and getting some assurance that a large enough audience will attend is something that can’t be done remotely.

I think that the problem for LUV in regard to such things isn’t a lack of money or independence. I think that the problem is that the committee spends too much volunteer time on administrative tasks and not enough time directly doing things that benefit members and the community in general.

In the past I have declined nomination to the LUV committee because I felt that I could contribute more by giving lectures, finding other speakers, and doing other things to directly improve the group. I was on the committee last year and have now been elected to it again, but I’m starting to think that I made a mistake. Maybe I should have declined and let others work on the new model rules and other paperwork.

One committee member has claimed that the time taken on administrative tasks isn’t taking time away from other LUV related tasks, I invite any committee members who feel that way to address some of the services that members are requesting. Speaking for myself my lack of time directly impacts that I can do for the club.

I think that ownership of a club should be related to what people do for the club. If you have a feeling of ownership and lack ideas for how to contribute then you can ask the LUV mailing list, there are lots of people with suggestions for things to do.

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Syndicated 2013-09-04 05:42:10 from etbe - Russell Coker

Links August 2013

Mark Cuban wrote an interesting article titled “What Business is Wall Street In” about the failure of Wall Street to fulfill it’s stated purpose of providing capital for businesses [1]. His proposed solution is extreme, but so is the problem.

PopSci has an interesting article by Peter Nonacs about allowing students to collaborate (which is often known as “cheating”) in an exam on a Game Theory exam [2]. So the Game Theory exam became a practical exercise. It’s more interesting than I can describe in a paragraph.

Salon has an interesting article suggesting that mealtime routines and rituals improve flavor [3]. I wonder whether that applies to other things. Does the “ritual” of compiling software make one enjoy it more? Would the food at a Linux conference taste better if we sang the “Free Software Song” first?

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Syndicated 2013-08-31 13:58:18 from etbe - Russell Coker

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