Recent blog entries for hoffman

OK. My last entry was a major jinx. Since I posted my praise for Sorcerer and the advantages of the focused vision of one key developer, Sorcerer has basically forked and imploded. I'd downloading the install floppies for Debian Woody with my tail between my legs.

Seems like getting back to this diary might be a good idea. Now that I'm doing tech stuff full time I have so many threads going on I can barely keep straight what I've done and what I need to do.

Looking at my last post, I was just putting together my first real Zope server. I got the thing running on Debian on the blue and white G3. It worked great using Squishdot and ZWiki with the teachers through the summer. They took to ZWiki particularly well. I did a major revision to the site at the beginning of the year when I switched to the Zope Content Management System (CMF). That was a little rough, and frankly made things less effective, because there were now too many things to do, instead of just having a simple choice of weblog stuff and wiki stuff.

I eventually gave the Mac to the music teacher, which was probably a mistake, but it was a gesture of goodwill, since she was new and there wasn't actually any musical equipment in the school. So I moved over onto a Pentium (350mhz-ish) box with a scsi card and Red Hat, which I'm more comfortable with.

That worked fine. Then we got a few new motherboards with Pentium 4 1600mhz's to replace some that fried themeselves, so we put one of those in the webserver. As Zope 2.5 and CMF 1.2 have come out recently, I figured I'd do a ground up reinstall. I have also been playing at home with two source based distributions, Sorcerer and Gentoo. I've got Gentoo running on my desktop box, but I decided that Sorcerer would be perfect for the webserver, because it gives the administrator the most transparent control over the system.

Aside: Sorcerer vs. Debian

Debian and Sorcerer are similar insofar as they don't provide the kind of graphical configuration tools that Red Hat, Suse, and Mandrake do. I think what has always given me trouble with Debian is its community aspect--which seems bizarre to say. The thing is, there is a whole learning curve for the lingo and traditions, like stable/unstable/testing, woody/potato, the peristence of really shitty tools like dselect. I know it all makes sense once you learn it, but that's something else to learn.

Plus on the P4, recompiling everything locally with optimizations seems to make a big difference

So anyhow, I've got the Sorcerer system mostly setup, and I'm feeling good about it. It is blazingly fast and doesn't have anything running that I don't need. I've been working on getting iptables running properly. Sad to say my boxes have been pretty damn insecure up to this point, but it looks like I'll have a proper packet filtering system running here momentarily.

I found out on Tuesday that I have two weeks to put together three days of technology training for the faculty at Feinstein. There should be no problem filling three days with important training and discussion. Since I want to demo some network applications before I really have time to put the network together (or before we get the computers) we're going to do the training at Fortes Elementary with their gear. I'm going to set up a Zope server, since that is a quick way to get a lot of different things working and it will give me a good test of the actual practicality of using Zope.

I spent most of the afternoon yesterday at AS220 working on figuring out the best way to install Zope on my iMac, since it looks like the best computer for me to commandeer at Feinstein for the moment is a blue G3. The project gave me an excuse to buy and install MacOS X. It cleanly installed on top of my existing OS 9 files & the online updating utility worked well (unlike the previous versions). I'll just say that I've never seen an OS that puts as heavy a load on a processor even when it is doing nothing.

Anyhow, there is something weird about the C compiler in OS X that I can't fathom, and I wasn't able to get Python to compile cleanly (the binaries generally don't support threads, which Zope needs). So I had to give up on that and switch to Debian PPC, which is a more familiar OS, if you can live with the weirdness of running it on Apple hardware. Not being able to eject cd's etc isn't such a problem if you are just running a server, and I finally got Zope running this morning.

That's my status...

Spent much of the weekend messing with Peerkat and Zope and xml. Got on the peerkat mailing list (on and found the answers to some problems. Peerkat only takes rss 1.0 feeds, which few places are using. There is a url that'll do the conversion on the fly for you, though.

I have been working on tweaking xpilot settings and maps to keep the kids entertained in the classroom when they are done with their work, as we creep toward the end of the school year. Teamplay is complicated, however, and not well documented.

I'm entering an attack phase, I'm learning lots of stuff every day, and I need to start writing down what I'm doing. Today, however, I'm sick, and feeling slowed down. Nonetheless, I downloaded peerkat, which is a new peer-to-peer version of meerkat. I was just trying out the meerkat product for Zope yesterday. I want to learn how to use RSS and meerkat to help bring more content on to community and school sites, to draw more eyes.

I started testing my first version of the Library Web Browsing Station today. I want to remember a few things so I might as well write it down here as anyplace. 1st, in lilo.conf you need to say restricted, not restrict, as itis in the Chuvakin howto. Second, if you are getting rid of the right mouse button in X86Config, you need to get rid of all the other button related options that contradict only having one mouse button.

Spent a good part of the day downloading KDE 2.1 & upgrading from the beta. I have reached the conclusion that if I was designing a Linux desktop setup for a school, I would recommend KDE, although I prefer the feel of GNOME for my personal use. It has too many of the details of everyday interaction with the interface done better than GNOME.

In a related note, I also downloaded and tried to make a decision between bluefish and quanta for html editing. I don't mind writing the tags in vi, but I need something to help me manage all the files and links. I think I like quanta better, but I don't appreciate the fact that I can't find a shred of documentation, and I 'm annoyed that I can't figure out how to change the font in the editor to be more legible, or bigger, at least.

Also spent some time reading about what Seymour Papert has been up to. It seems like the Media Lab is in sync with what I and RIPCORD have in mind, but they also seem to be creating a lot of vapor...

I must have been working too much this week, because today suddenly turned into Linux game day. Actually, it started last night... Here's what I've learned which may be of some use on the cafe computer at as220, where games are an important part of the user experience:

I got cgoban working with gnugo to play go. It is a bit unintuitive because you have to set it up like a modem game, except pointing to gnugo. Maybe it is possible to do that from the command line and hard wire it into the menu. I'll find out eventually.

There is a sound option for xboing, but the menus don't launch it by default. The possible drawback is that it says "oh shit" when you lose a ball. Don't know if that can be changed. (well it can, I'm sure, question is how hard is it.) Anyhow, you can change the menu item config to get the sound on automatically.

I spent most of my time working on 3d stuff. I wasn't sure if OpenGL (that is, Mesa) was working with my video card, because the 3d screensavers won't run in GL mode, but that seems to be an issue specific to xscreensaver as far as I can tell. There is something called SDL which is the main ratsnest of problems. There are many modules or libraries that go with it, too.

I compiled tux racer first, once I got the sdl stuff straightened out. Looks great with my 32mg nividia card. The sound doesn't work because of sdl problems. Mostly things don't detect the libraries at configure time, even though they are there. Don't know why. I don't think I tried a tuxracer rpm... I'll download one now. It doesn't need anything exotic, so you should be able to get it running on oscorb, if Mesa works.

Didn't get gltron to rpm or compile. Needed glut, which I couldn't get to work. Looks like a good game, 3-d split-screen tron-cycle action.

Just got bzflag running. It is a networked battlezone. Only seems to have a networked mode, no ai. I may actually try to play this over the net. It has been around a while so the graphics aren't too demanding. Probably not of use in the cafe, however.

My big success is cannonsmash or csmash ( I couldn't get it to compile due to sdl issues, but the mandrake rpm on rprfind works ok. It crashes occasionally, but it isn't too bad. It is an awesome 3d ping pong game.

Now that I have a real account at as220, I have a real web page at

I have also started the RIPCORD webpage at

That was most of my work for last weekend and the beginning of the week. The last few days I have been working on how to use Galeon as the browser in a dedicated web kiosk. In the meantime I have also had to learn to use CVS, and I think I figured out how to modify a few lines of Galeon source to make the context menu suit my needs.

Right now, my cd-rom drive seems to have stopped p>working, and I think I have to reboot, so I'll stop here.

Finally figured out how to connect a linux box to the NT network at school. Turns out that they use DCHP for IP addresses, as I thought, but they don't use DNS at all for the workstations. They just know the name and ip addresses of the servers, as far as I can tell, so I just had to find those and put them in /etc/hosts, and we're surfing the web.

Next I am trying to configure a box in the library to be a dedicated web browsing station. It is looking like I'll use Galeon for that purpose, but it isn't yet certain. I'm trying to set it up to run full page without a window manager, which Galeon is well suited to, with it's tabbed mode and crash recovery festures. My initial problem is that it doesn't take a geometry arguement. I'm sure there's a way around that, but I don't know what it is yet.

The other big news is that my home box is almost all here and working, minus a floppy drive and with an ancient video card. I had decided to force myself to spend some time using KDE2, but as usual, the installation process has been marred by many false starts. I've bounced back and forth between Mandrake 7.2 and RedHat 7.0 (my usual). I ultimately decided to stick with RedHat, although it hasn't found my sound hardware and it currently isn't recognizing that I have kde2 installed. The other big problem is that my power and hard drive lights don't work, and my overly macho cooling fan sounds like a hair dryer.

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