Older blog entries for hoffman (starting at number 18)

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.

Now that I have created a project (in the sense of creating one on Advogato, the actual project I have joined), I realize there are a few things about this system I don't understand, such as how people add themselves or are added to projects. I suppose the problem may be that my friend who is also working on the project, is also only an observer, but I don't know. Any help from random diary readers?

Also, the link explaining the html usage is broken, but I'm sure there is someone I should be telling, rather than just talking into the wind here.

Most of my writing recently has been directed at the ri-fsl--the Rhode Island Free Software League--mailing list lately. We've mutated names into RIPCORD--Rhode Island Public Computing Open Resource Development. I just created a project page here . It is rather lame at the moment, as we don't have a real functioning homepage yet.

My classroom project will be considered an ongoing RIPCORD project, now. We have some other things cooking, as well.

I am waiting for the rest of my new linux box to arrive to undertake my next major burst of research and development.

OK, it has been awhile, but much has been happening. Nonetheless, I will be brief.

In terms of my classroom project, I have been working on getting slashcode to work on my server. The idea is that students can post reading responses, comment on each others, etc. I ran it for the first time today for four periods. My seventh graders had some trouble with the login process. Most of them haven't really fooled around with their mail, so it was tricky having them retrieve their passwords from e-mail. I ran out of memory and VM had to start killing processes twice. This is not surprising, I guess, in retrospect, on my 48 mb box, especially since the box is also doing NIS/NFS and lpd. I have 128 mb sitting here at home waiting for my next linux box, so I'll see if that solves the problem for the time being.

We also are in the process of starting an organization in Providence to put free software in public places, but everything, including the mission statement is still very much up in the air, so I will hold off on more about that. Needless to say, I'm excited.

Well, we have arrived at Christmas vacation. Leaving access to the computer games on all day makes such unproductive days easier to survive. I'm pushing the multi-player freeciv, and a core of kids are getting the hang of it. We all have to watch out for the computer players, though.

E-mailed a prof at Brown who runs a seminar every year where teams of students design educational software for local classrooms. If we can tie that project into the open source world, their projects could have considerably longer lives and wider impacts. It is an exciting possibility and could be a fine model of educational partnerships & open source development.

I'm thinking about starting either newsgroup service or some web-based discussion service--isn't the slashdot software open source?--to go along with the novel reading we are going to do after break. Having the kids read and rate each other's responses could work very well.

Have to keep track of how long my server runs without an actual crash. It had 10 days on it when I shut it down for the holidays. I can't remember the last time it has actually failed for any reason other than some mistake on my part or an interruption of power.

I do need to remember that when preparing documentation for teachers to be careful to explain that various levels of linux hangs and freezes--that often it is just X dying and a ctrl-alt-backspace will do the trick. GDM dies on my sometimes, particularly after switching to a virtual terminal, and I finally realized that I can fix that with a killall gdm from a virtual terminal. At first, I was rebooting much more than I needed to. Linux feels more stable once you realize how to recover from things that look like death.

Upon revisiting the rox-filer homepage, I realized that it is capable of putting icons on the desktop, although it refers to this as a pinboard or something equally obscure (British?). Regardless, I couldn't actually get it to work. Looks good on the screenshots. I suppose I should compiling rather than using the rpm. It is extremely fast and clean, although just about anything is fast and clean next to gmc.

Looks like I should have xmotd running on the network tomorrow. I'll have to add another little file to fstab to distribute the /etc/motd directory. I'm not sure if there is a more efficient way to handle that. Looks good, regardless.

Freeciv is catching on. The kids have a little trouble getting the client/server thing going, but obviously that is an important lesson. In case you are wondering, they only play games before and after school--I have a cron job that changes the permissions on /usr/games.

Well, since Yary's switch arrived, I have been able to install the 9th and final (for now) computer in my room. Now the server is on my desk, although still running X, and the kids have 8 workstations. I got the final workstation running today, more or less letting the kids discover what I had forgotten to install throughout the day.

I'm going to try to get xmotd running tomorrow so I can send out messages of the day. It seemed to compile ok. I can't say the same for gktmotd. At this point, I have no idea what to do when things don't compile or install from rpm correctly. I am also going to ressurect (sp) rox-filer for one of my students who doesn't want to use desktop icons, since he's running xmatrix in his background (a very efficient use of clock-cycles, to be sure). Anyhow, rox-filer is very fast, small, and looks good, but most kids really need desktop icons. By the way, I need to figure out how to run Konqueror in icewm with desktop icons.

I have a little empty nest syndrome now that I've finally moved all these computers out of my house. My iMac is a frustrating Linux platform. My floppy drive and printer aren't supported, if I'm not mistaken, and it is just frustrating trying to run open software on such a closed hardware platform. Since GNU-Darwin and others have been making progress on their porting efforts, I once again nuked my LinuxPPC partition and installed Darwin 1.2.

Today was one of those graceful days in which the bonehead errors of the recent past reveal themselves in all their trivial clarity. I quickly figured out that the problem with one of my workstation is that it was trying to use hda55555 as its swap partition. With only 32megs, I'm a bit surprised it worked at all.

I then found the error in my server's /etc/fstab which was keeping my new Blackbox config directory from being exported and got that working, although I must say the kids don't seem too excited about the minimal glory of Blackbox.

I knocked another item off my to-do list by using LinuxConf to add quotas to my students' home directories. That was easy. On a related note I got a nice reply from Jacques Gelinas (the developer of LinuxConf) to a query about setting up X-terminals.

While picking up a utility on freshmeat to monitor my print queue, I also found a potential solution for one frustrating issue I've been having. I've been bemused by my student's fixation on bringing in and exchanging images from Dragonball Z, but the printing issue is difficult, because I don't want them to use up all my toner on the pictures that look crappy anyhow in black and white. I found a utility called printauthchk which evaluates the cost of a document in toner and paper and deducts the amount from a user account, so I can give the kids a certain amount of printer toner credit and limit their use. It may not work, but then again, it isn't costing me anything to try.

To do: disk quotas, more cron jobs, print queue monitor, blackbox config over NFS, troubleshoot broad workstation. Figure out how to copy an entire filesystem from one computer to another. Find out how the rest of our NT network is configured.

I've made a few incremental improvements, each time temporarily screwing things up royally.

I cannibalized my weakest machine and moved a second 1 gig hard drive onto my server & moved /home onto it. I imagine that will speed things up a little. I also put in 16 more megs of RAM, bringing me up to a stunning 48 and replaced an unreliable floppy drive.

I ported my icewm menu over to blackbox menu format and installed it on all the machines. I tried to make the NFS clients mount the /usr/X11R6/share/Blackbox directory, but somehow screwed it up. I'm not sure why, as they are already mounting several NFS directories with fstab. Regardless, icewm is perfect for getting the kids started, but it is a little lame stylistically. Ultimately I don't want to just ape Windows 95. Blackbox clearly says something different is going on here.

My old WRCT buddy/roommate/label boss Yary Hluchan is generously donating a 8 port switch to the cause. That'll help me stop using my server as a workstation and get connected to the rest of the school network. I might add that using the server as a workstation has gone just fine, my best example of the stability of Linux. On the other hand, one of my workstations froze about 5 times today, so I need to sort that out.

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