Older blog entries for hoffman (starting at number 21)

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 (cannonsmash.sourceforge.net) 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 www.as220.org/~hoffman.

I have also started the RIPCORD webpage at www.as220.org/~ripcord

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.

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.

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