Older blog entries for neurogato (starting at number 31)

2011-08-08: neuro’s Tweets from Last Week

  • Washing machine is making a weird groaning noise when the spin cycle is on. Don't know whether to be concerned or sympathetic. #
  • Nice one Facebook. If you put a YouTube link in an FB comment, a wee video preview will appear like you see when you do a YouTube wall post. #
  • Just tried to install DDR3 RAM (spare after my MacBook Pro 4GB>8GB upgrade) into my Mac Mini … which takes DDR2 #finnicky #fail #
  • I unlocked 17 Xbox Live achievements yesterday: http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/evilneuro/games/ #
  • Installed RAM in Mac mini. Forgot to reattach hard drive thermal sensor cable. Fan is now going full pelt. #firstworldproblems #
  • clicky clicky click click clicky
    (@DaftLimmy live on http://twitcam.com/61l7d) #
  • This = win: defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false #
  • Looks like @lovedapop's joomla-powered site can't take a dragondotting! Can't wait to see how they get on though. #dragonsden #

Syndicated 2011-08-08 01:41:00 from neuro.me.uk » open source

2011-08-01: neuro’s Tweets from Last Week

  • Christ, daytime telly really is (still) shit, innit. #
  • Someone thought having 8 shopping channels on Freeview but no BBC radio stations was a good idea. I must find them and hurt them. #
  • Bullshit deal dumps 50% of live #f1 races from BBC from next season http://t.co/dgRK37F My dad is going to be furious. #
  • Bollocks, work tomorrow … oh wait, another week of holiday! Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! #bwahaha #
  • Bollocks, work tomorrow … oh wait, another week of holiday! Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! #bwahaha #
  • Bollocks, work tomorrow … oh wait, another week of holiday! Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! #bwahaha #
  • Ahh, Top Gear. Forgot. Dragon's Den. Forgot. ENGAGE THE HUMAX! #pvrforthewin #
  • Ahh, Top Gear. Forgot. Dragon's Den. Forgot. ENGAGE THE HUMAX! #pvrforthewin #
  • Time for some Sunday night Bad Company 2 … gotta get rank 50 before BF3 comes out in Oct! #battlefield #

Syndicated 2011-08-01 01:41:00 from neuro.me.uk » open source

Revert to Standard Ubuntu Kernel on OVH or Kimsufi Servers

I have a cheap dedicated server running Ubuntu Linux — the 8.04 LTS “Hardy Heron” release — with Kimsufi, the budget arm of French hosting company OVH. All their Linux servers (and FreeBSD servers too, I think) are provisioned with their own custom, static kernel. This, they say, makes it “secure”. It also makes it a pain in the ass to use, since you lose kernel module functionality. So I went through this scary, but straightforward process to put the standard Ubuntu kernel back. Note that I did this procedure on their entry level C-05G server, and your mileage may vary dependent on which server you lease from them, and what hardware specification you have (and ergo what kernel drivers you’ll need). Stuff you should type below is in bold type.

Update 2011-07-28: I just rented one of Kimsufi’s new 16G servers running Ubuntu 10.04

First, let’s check what kernel we’re running:


neuro@hera:~$ uname -a
Linux hera 2.6.27.10-grsec-xxxx-grs-ipv4-64 #6 SMP Fri Aug 14 10:29:05 UTC 2009 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Yup, some scary, weird kernel that OVH have compiled and installed themselves — although to be fair, they do provide kernel configs to compile a different variant yourself, but I wanted to use the stock Ubuntu 64-bit kernel.

So after doing sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade to make sure everything else is up to date, let’s install the GRUB boot loader, and the stock Ubuntu Server kernel image.


neuro@hera:~$ sudo apt-get install linux-server grub
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
linux-image-2.6.24-24-server linux-image-server
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server
Suggested packages:
grub-doc mdadm linux-doc-2.6.24 linux-source-2.6.24
The following NEW packages will be installed
grub linux-image-2.6.24-24-server linux-image-server linux-server
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server
0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 24.4MB of archives.
After this operation, 111MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?
Get: 1 ftp://mir1.ovh.net hardy-updates/main grub 0.97-29ubuntu21.1 [871kB]
Get: 2 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/main linux-image-2.6.24-24-server 2.6.24-24.59 [17.8MB]
Get: 3 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/main linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server 2.6.24-24.39 [5671kB]
Get: 4 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/main linux-image-server 2.6.24.24.26 [26.6kB]
Get: 5 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/restricted linux-server 2.6.24.24.26 [26.6kB]
Fetched 24.4MB in 2s (9414kB/s)
Preconfiguring packages ...
Selecting previously deselected package linux-image-2.6.24-24-server.
(Reading database ... 38251 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (from .../linux-image-2.6.24-24-server_2.6.24-24.59_amd64.deb) ...
Done.
Selecting previously deselected package linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server.
Unpacking linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server (from .../linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server_2.6.24-24.39_amd64.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package grub.
Unpacking grub (from .../grub_0.97-29ubuntu21.1_amd64.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package linux-image-server.
Unpacking linux-image-server (from .../linux-image-server_2.6.24.24.26_amd64.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package linux-server.
Unpacking linux-server (from .../linux-server_2.6.24.24.26_amd64.deb) ...
Setting up linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (2.6.24-24.59) ...
Running depmod.
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-24-server
Running postinst hook script /sbin/update-grub.
Searching for GRUB installation directory ...
No GRUB directory found. To create a template run 'mkdir /boot/grub' first. To install grub, install it manually or try the 'grub-install' command. ### Warning, grub-install is used to change your MBR. ###

User postinst hook script [/sbin/update-grub] exited with value 1
dpkg: error processing linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (--configure):
subprocess post-installation script returned error exit status 1
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server:
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server depends on linux-image-2.6.24-24-server; however:
Package linux-image-2.6.24-24-server is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server (--configure):
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
Setting up grub (0.97-29ubuntu21.1) ...

dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of linux-image-server:
linux-image-server depends on linux-image-2.6.24-24-server; however:
Package linux-image-2.6.24-24-server is not configured yet.
linux-image-server depends on linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server; however:
Package linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing linux-image-server (--configure):
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of linux-server:
linux-server depends on linux-image-server (= 2.6.24.24.26); however:
Package linux-image-server is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing linux-server (--configure):
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
Errors were encountered while processing:
linux-image-2.6.24-24-server
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server
linux-image-server
linux-server
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

OK, that didn’t look so good, but it’s all right. Now, we’ll fix the problem that GRUB was complaining about, then complete the install.


neuro@hera:~$ sudo mkdir /boot/grub
neuro@hera:~$ sudo apt-get install grub
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
grub is already the newest version.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
4 not fully installed or removed.
After this operation, 0B of additional disk space will be used.
Setting up linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (2.6.24-24.59) ...
Running depmod.
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-24-server
Running postinst hook script /sbin/update-grub.
Searching for GRUB installation directory ... found: /boot/grub
Searching for default file ... Generating /boot/grub/default file and setting the default boot entry to 0
Searching for GRUB installation directory ... found: /boot/grub
Testing for an existing GRUB menu.lst file ...

Could not find /boot/grub/menu.lst file. Would you like /boot/grub/menu.lst generated for you? (y/N) y
Searching for splash image ... none found, skipping ...
Found kernel: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-24-server
Updating /boot/grub/menu.lst ... done

Setting up linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server (2.6.24-24.39) ...
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-24-server

Setting up linux-image-server (2.6.24.24.26) ...
Setting up linux-server (2.6.24.24.26) ...

And that’s that part fixed! Now we just need to configure GRUB to point in the right direction, and install it to the MBR (Master Boot Record).


neuro@hera:~$ sudo grub-install --recheck --root-directory=/ /dev/sda
Probing devices to guess BIOS drives. This may take a long time.
Installing GRUB to /dev/sda as (hd0)...
Installation finished. No error reported.
This is the contents of the device map //boot/grub/device.map.
Check if this is correct or not. If any of the lines is incorrect,
fix it and re-run the script `grub-install'.

(fd0) /dev/fd0
(hd0) /dev/sda
neuro@hera:~$ sudo grub
Probing devices to guess BIOS drives. This may take a long time.

[ Minimal BASH-like line editing is supported. For
the first word, TAB lists possible command
completions. Anywhere else TAB lists the possible
completions of a device/filename. ]
grub> root (hd0,0)
root (hd0,0)
grub> find /boot/grub/stage2
find /boot/grub/stage2
(hd0,0)
grub> setup (hd0)
setup (hd0)
Checking if "/boot/grub/stage1" exists... yes
Checking if "/boot/grub/stage2" exists... yes
Checking if "/boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5" exists... yes
Running "embed /boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5 (hd0)"... 16 sectors are embedded.
succeeded
Running "install /boot/grub/stage1 (hd0) (hd0)1+16 p (hd0,0)/boot/grub/stage2 /boot/grub/menu.lst"... succeeded
Done.
grub> quit
quit

… and now both kernel and bootloader are installed. Time for the scary part. From another machine, ping the server (if you’re running Windows, and pinging from the command prompt, use ping -t instead of just ping to continuously ping rather than just try 5 times; press Ctrl+C to cancel the ping at any time). Now that we’re monitoring whether the server is up or not, we can reboot it to use the new kernel …


neuro@hera:~$ sudo shutdown -r -f now

Broadcast message from neuro@hera
(/dev/pts/1) at 10:14 ...

The system is going down for reboot NOW!
neuro@hera:~$ logout
Connection to hera closed.

You should see the server stop responding to pings, then a minute or so later, start responding again.

If it doesn’t respond after a few minutes, don’t panic, use the Netboot mode to reboot your server, using a network-boot kernel. Once there, you can simply do sudo lilo -v which will re-install the original LILO bootloader, using the OVH-installed kernel, or stick with the netboot kernel if you like.

However, if the server does start responding to pings again (and it should), you can now ssh back in and check things out …


$ ssh hera
Linux hera 2.6.24-24-server #1 SMP Tue Aug 18 16:51:43 UTC 2009 x86_64

The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
applicable law.

To access official Ubuntu documentation, please visit:

http://help.ubuntu.com/

Last login: Sun Sep 20 06:43:01 2009
neuro@hera:~$ uname -a
Linux hera 2.6.24-24-server #1 SMP Tue Aug 18 16:51:43 UTC 2009 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Woo hoo. A standard Ubuntu kernel, that can take kernel modules, and be updated regularly using apt-get, aptitude, etc. Of course, you can mix this up using other packaged kernels, such as the -rt real time kernel, or the -xen kernel to use Xen virtual machines. Go nuts, because at least now you can use your server as Shuttleworth and co intended!

Note: this procedure worked perfectly for me, but as mentioned at the start, YMMV: I can’t be held responsible if it all goes tango uniform, and Bad Things Happen. Proceed at your own risk, and good luck!

Syndicated 2011-07-28 15:49:07 from neuro.me.uk » open source

Revert to Standard Ubuntu Kernel on OVH or Kimsufi Servers

I have a cheap dedicated server running Ubuntu Linux with Kimsufi, the budget arm of French hosting company OVH. All their Linux servers (and FreeBSD servers too, I think) are provisioned with their own custom, static kernel. This, they say, makes it “secure”. It also makes it a pain in the ass to use, since you lose kernel module functionality. So I went through this scary, but straightforward process to put the standard Ubuntu kernel back. Note that I did this procedure on their entry level C-05G server, and your mileage may vary dependent on which server you lease from them, and what hardware specification you have (and ergo what kernel drivers you’ll need). Stuff you should type below is in bold type.

First, let’s check what kernel we’re running:


neuro@hera:~$ uname -a
Linux hera 2.6.27.10-grsec-xxxx-grs-ipv4-64 #6 SMP Fri Aug 14 10:29:05 UTC 2009 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Yup, some scary, weird kernel that OVH have compiled and installed themselves — although to be fair, they do provide kernel configs to compile a different variant yourself, but I wanted to use the stock Ubuntu 64-bit kernel.

So after doing sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade to make sure everything else is up to date, let’s install the GRUB boot loader, and the stock Ubuntu Server kernel image.


neuro@hera:~$ sudo apt-get install linux-server grub
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
linux-image-2.6.24-24-server linux-image-server
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server
Suggested packages:
grub-doc mdadm linux-doc-2.6.24 linux-source-2.6.24
The following NEW packages will be installed
grub linux-image-2.6.24-24-server linux-image-server linux-server
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server
0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 24.4MB of archives.
After this operation, 111MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?
Get: 1 ftp://mir1.ovh.net hardy-updates/main grub 0.97-29ubuntu21.1 [871kB]
Get: 2 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/main linux-image-2.6.24-24-server 2.6.24-24.59 [17.8MB]
Get: 3 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/main linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server 2.6.24-24.39 [5671kB]
Get: 4 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/main linux-image-server 2.6.24.24.26 [26.6kB]
Get: 5 http://security.ubuntu.com hardy-security/restricted linux-server 2.6.24.24.26 [26.6kB]
Fetched 24.4MB in 2s (9414kB/s)
Preconfiguring packages ...
Selecting previously deselected package linux-image-2.6.24-24-server.
(Reading database ... 38251 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (from .../linux-image-2.6.24-24-server_2.6.24-24.59_amd64.deb) ...
Done.
Selecting previously deselected package linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server.
Unpacking linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server (from .../linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server_2.6.24-24.39_amd64.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package grub.
Unpacking grub (from .../grub_0.97-29ubuntu21.1_amd64.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package linux-image-server.
Unpacking linux-image-server (from .../linux-image-server_2.6.24.24.26_amd64.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package linux-server.
Unpacking linux-server (from .../linux-server_2.6.24.24.26_amd64.deb) ...
Setting up linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (2.6.24-24.59) ...
Running depmod.
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-24-server
Running postinst hook script /sbin/update-grub.
Searching for GRUB installation directory ...
No GRUB directory found. To create a template run 'mkdir /boot/grub' first. To install grub, install it manually or try the 'grub-install' command. ### Warning, grub-install is used to change your MBR. ###

User postinst hook script [/sbin/update-grub] exited with value 1
dpkg: error processing linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (--configure):
subprocess post-installation script returned error exit status 1
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server:
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server depends on linux-image-2.6.24-24-server; however:
Package linux-image-2.6.24-24-server is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server (--configure):
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
Setting up grub (0.97-29ubuntu21.1) ...

dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of linux-image-server:
linux-image-server depends on linux-image-2.6.24-24-server; however:
Package linux-image-2.6.24-24-server is not configured yet.
linux-image-server depends on linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server; however:
Package linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing linux-image-server (--configure):
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of linux-server:
linux-server depends on linux-image-server (= 2.6.24.24.26); however:
Package linux-image-server is not configured yet.
dpkg: error processing linux-server (--configure):
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
Errors were encountered while processing:
linux-image-2.6.24-24-server
linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server
linux-image-server
linux-server
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

OK, that didn’t look so good, but it’s all right. Now, we’ll fix the problem that GRUB was complaining about, then complete the install.


neuro@hera:~$ sudo mkdir /boot/grub
neuro@hera:~$ sudo apt-get install grub
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
grub is already the newest version.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
4 not fully installed or removed.
After this operation, 0B of additional disk space will be used.
Setting up linux-image-2.6.24-24-server (2.6.24-24.59) ...
Running depmod.
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-24-server
Running postinst hook script /sbin/update-grub.
Searching for GRUB installation directory ... found: /boot/grub
Searching for default file ... Generating /boot/grub/default file and setting the default boot entry to 0
Searching for GRUB installation directory ... found: /boot/grub
Testing for an existing GRUB menu.lst file ...

Could not find /boot/grub/menu.lst file. Would you like /boot/grub/menu.lst generated for you? (y/N) y
Searching for splash image ... none found, skipping ...
Found kernel: /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-24-server
Updating /boot/grub/menu.lst ... done

Setting up linux-ubuntu-modules-2.6.24-24-server (2.6.24-24.39) ...
update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-24-server

Setting up linux-image-server (2.6.24.24.26) ...
Setting up linux-server (2.6.24.24.26) ...

And that’s that part fixed! Now we just need to configure GRUB to point in the right direction, and install it to the MBR (Master Boot Record).


neuro@hera:~$ sudo grub-install --recheck --root-directory=/ /dev/sda
Probing devices to guess BIOS drives. This may take a long time.
Installing GRUB to /dev/sda as (hd0)...
Installation finished. No error reported.
This is the contents of the device map //boot/grub/device.map.
Check if this is correct or not. If any of the lines is incorrect,
fix it and re-run the script `grub-install'.

(fd0) /dev/fd0
(hd0) /dev/sda
neuro@hera:~$ sudo grub
Probing devices to guess BIOS drives. This may take a long time.

[ Minimal BASH-like line editing is supported. For
the first word, TAB lists possible command
completions. Anywhere else TAB lists the possible
completions of a device/filename. ]
grub> root (hd0,0)
root (hd0,0)
grub> find /boot/grub/stage2
find /boot/grub/stage2
(hd0,0)
grub> setup (hd0)
setup (hd0)
Checking if "/boot/grub/stage1" exists... yes
Checking if "/boot/grub/stage2" exists... yes
Checking if "/boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5" exists... yes
Running "embed /boot/grub/e2fs_stage1_5 (hd0)"... 16 sectors are embedded.
succeeded
Running "install /boot/grub/stage1 (hd0) (hd0)1+16 p (hd0,0)/boot/grub/stage2 /boot/grub/menu.lst"... succeeded
Done.
grub> quit
quit

… and now both kernel and bootloader are installed. Time for the scary part. From another machine, ping the server (if you’re running Windows, and pinging from the command prompt, use ping -t instead of just ping to continuously ping rather than just try 5 times; press Ctrl+C to cancel the ping at any time). Now that we’re monitoring whether the server is up or not, we can reboot it to use the new kernel …


neuro@hera:~$ sudo shutdown -r -f now

Broadcast message from neuro@hera
(/dev/pts/1) at 10:14 ...

The system is going down for reboot NOW!
neuro@hera:~$ logout
Connection to hera closed.

You should see the server stop responding to pings, then a minute or so later, start responding again.

If it doesn’t respond after a few minutes, don’t panic, use the Netboot mode to reboot your server, using a network-boot kernel. Once there, you can simply do sudo lilo -v which will re-install the original LILO bootloader, using the OVH-installed kernel, or stick with the netboot kernel if you like.

However, if the server does start responding to pings again (and it should), you can now ssh back in and check things out …


$ ssh hera
Linux hera 2.6.24-24-server #1 SMP Tue Aug 18 16:51:43 UTC 2009 x86_64

The programs included with the Ubuntu system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Ubuntu comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by
applicable law.

To access official Ubuntu documentation, please visit:
http://help.ubuntu.com/
Last login: Sun Sep 20 06:43:01 2009
neuro@hera:~$ uname -a
Linux hera 2.6.24-24-server #1 SMP Tue Aug 18 16:51:43 UTC 2009 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Woo hoo. A standard Ubuntu kernel, that can take kernel modules, and be updated regularly using apt-get, aptitude, etc. Of course, you can mix this up using other packaged kernels, such as the -rt real time kernel, or the -xen kernel to use Xen virtual machines. Go nuts, because at least now you can use your server as Shuttleworth and co intended!

Note: this procedure worked perfectly for me, but as mentioned at the start, YMMV: I can’t be held responsible if it all goes tango uniform, and Bad Things Happen. Proceed at your own risk, and good luck!

Syndicated 2009-09-20 10:59:22 from neuro.me.uk » open source

The Four Ubuntu Yorkshiremen

(With apologies to Monty Python)

Four well-dressed men sitting together at a LUG meeting, surrounding a laptop running Ubuntu 9.04.

First Yorkshireman (1Y): Ahh … Very passable, this, very passable.

Second Yorkshireman (2Y): Nothing like a good install of Ubuntu Jaunty, eh Gessiah?

Third Yorkshireman (3Y): You’re right there, Obediah.

Fourth Yorkshireman (4Y): Who’d a thought fifteen years ago we’d all be sittin’ here recordin’ a podcast usin’ Jokosher on Ubuntu?

1Y: Aye. In them days, we’d a’ been glad to have Slackware installed on t’hard disk.

2Y: A beta of Slackware.

3Y: Without network card or CD-ROM drive.

4Y: Or a hard disk!

1Y: In a filthy Packard Bell.

3Y: We never used to have Packard Bell. We used to have to use RM Nimbuses.

2Y: The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of a Sinclair QL.

4Y: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

1Y: Aye. Because we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, “Money doesn’t buy you operatin’ systems.”

3Y: ‘E was right. I was happier then and I had nothin’. We used to use Yggdrasil Linux on an old Compaq with half of case missin’.

2Y: Case? You were lucky to have a case! We used to have motherboards and components scattered about floor for ’servers, all hundred and twenty-six of ‘em, no cable ties. Half the things were un-updated; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of being DDoSed!

4Y: You were lucky to have updates! *We* used to have to hand-patch kernels every week!

1Y: Ohhhh we used to dream of hand-patching kernels! Woulda been a weight lifted to us. We used to infiltrate remote systems to snoop on the kernel to see what’d been changed the night before to reverse engineer t’changes back on our own kernels. Patches!? Hmph.

3Y: Well when I say “patch” it was a hard copy of a diff printed on continuous paper with the green lines on it, but it were a patch to us.

2Y: We stopped gettin’ our hard copies; we had to fly to Finland and get Linus to transcribe bloody diffs onto notebooks!

4Y: You were lucky to have notebooks! There were a hundred and sixty of us passing code changes across Europe by t’game of Chinese Whispers.

1Y: By phone?

4Y: Aye.

1Y: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a telephone exchange intercepting phone calls on the off-chance we’d catch your Chinese Whispers. We’d scratch the diffs onto nearby bits of copper wire, swallow ‘em and spend fourteen hours on bog trying to get em back again when we got home. Then our Dad would thrash us t’sleep with his copy of BYTE!

2Y: Luxury. We use to have to swim t’Finland at three o’clock in the morning, sneak up to Torvalds’ house, spy on him until he typed in the bits we thought he was changing, scribble them down on newspaper and post them and ourselves back by DHL, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken Tulip network card, if we were lucky!

4Y: Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up at twelve o’clock at night, figure out t’diffs by mental projection, lick t’diffs onto EEPROMs for 1,166 Swatch Internet beats, debug the compiler with a slide rule, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with unsheathed Cat 5.

3Y: Right. I had to steal kernel diffs from you bastards, invent time machine, go back in time, give diffs to Torvalds to implement as the first version of the code instead of the twentieth, go forward in time, and find all the diffs already implemented in the kernel I got with Slackware, and when we got home, our Dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing the Free Software Song.

1Y: But you try and tell the young people today that … and they won’t believe ya’.

ALL: Nope, nope …

Syndicated 2009-03-22 13:28:00 from neuro.me.uk » open source

Defective in the Head

As someone said on IRC this morning: “the FSF appear to have come up with the perfect plan for how to look like a bunch of annoying, smart-arse tossers“. Has the Free Software Foundation gone nuts?

Update 13:30: I don’t seem to be alone on this: popey, mgdm, ZDNet, Slashdot.

I’ve been saying for a while that the more zealous methods used by proponents of Free software have been somewhat over-the-top, and do more to detract from the FOSS public image than to build upon it in a constructive way. Now they’ve taken a sip from the poisoned Kool-Aid. The FSF, via it’s Defective by Design campaign, is advocating that people block-book sessions at an Apple Store’s Genius Bar, a sort of drop-in and bookable repair and support centre. “Having lots of slots booked will get Apple’s attention and ensure that the Geniuses have done their homework”, says the ‘Apple Challenge’ page, posted by FSF employee Matt Lee. The rationale apparently is that Apple is now the enemy, since Vista is doing more damage to itself than anyone else can from outside Microsoft, and the first target are the Apple Store’s Genius Bars.

Update 13:35: Just noticed this on IRC …
[13:33]<mgdm> popey: you mean mattl actually uses a Mac?
[13:33] <popey> he does
[13:33] <mgdm> IRONY OVERLOAD *head asplodes*

My employer purchased both AppleCare and ProCare for my MBP, which has come in extremely handy when the ‘O’ key snapped off (keyboard replaced overnight), my battery failed to hold a charge (replaced immediately upon attending pre-booked Genius Bar session) and my motherboard GPU failed (motherboard replaced in 90 minutes). Now imagine any of the following scenarios: you’re unsure how to use your newly purchased Macbook; you’re trying to connect a camera to your Mac to transfer photos to iPhoto and print them to send to relatives in a frame; your machine has failed in some way and urgently needs repaired, as you use it for your business. You try to book a session at the Genius Bar to resolve any of these issues, and … it’s fully booked. For days. Wow, they must be busy.

Well, no, it’s actually a bunch of uber-asshole Free software zealots thinking they’re “special”, attempting to monopolise a consumer resource in an attempt to “educate” or “catch out” Apple Store employees, some of whom may have used Macs for years, others may have had a crash course in Apple products so that they know as much as they can about the stuff they sell, but little else. Why harass these people? It’s like having a constant stream of people going up to the counter at McDonald’s and espousing the benefits of a low-carb, high-fibre diet to the person who can do the least about it. Genius Bar employees may know all about FOSS, but critically it’s not their job to promote it. It’s not a “product” to be “sold”, but a philosophy to be shared.

A plea to the FSF: stop harassing Apple staff, and stop alienating the very people you’re trying to “save”. There are better, more ethical, more agreeable methods to promote FOSS. What you’re doing is none of those things. In the meantime, you’ve virtually guaranteed I will never promote, condone, contribute or donate to any FSF body, project or campaign. I’ve had a “Warning, DRM” defectivebydesign.org sticker on my Macbook Pro for a while now, mainly for comedic value. It’s gone now. I no longer want to be seen to be promoting these idiots in any way. As much as I love the thought of Free and Open Source Software being used everywhere and anywhere, this is just not the way to be going about it.

Syndicated 2008-07-28 12:07:07 from neuro.me.uk » open source

No More SmoothWall (For Me)

Some of you who know me may know my fascination and infatuation for SmoothWall, the open source Linux firewall distro. You may be interested to know that I’ve decided to take my leave of the project after just over 7 years. To explain, I need to tell a story of how I got there in the first place.

In October 2000, I moved house. My Internet access changed from using a Nokia 5146 mobile phone making data calls to Freeserve and BT Internet (0800 dialup for a tenner a month), hooked up to a Windows NT Workstation to share to my fledgling LAN (of two machines), to having a USR Sportster 56K modem and “real” phone line. I needed a better way to share the access than a Windows box, and decided to investigate building a router firewall running Debian Linux. I lasted about two days and was getting narked off that I had to read all my personal email at work. Then I picked up the December 2000 issue of Linux Format, which had a free Linux-based router firewall distro cover mounted on the CD. It was SmoothWall 0.9.5LF.

I installed it and it ran just peachy, getting way further than my fudged Debian install in about 20 minutes. Internet access had I. Once I was online, I did my usual: subscribe to the mailing lists, check out the project a bit more. Turns out they were looking for some help with the web interface the firewall software used, and at the time I considered myself a dab hand with Photoshop and HTML, so I threw my cap over the wall and sent some UI mockups to the list. Soon, I was part of the project team, and not only helping Dan Goscomb build out the web interface, but also doing some meagre Perl hacking on the UI rendering code, and fiddling with serial LCD consoles to get status information from the firewall onto. Eventually I found myself involved in redesigning the project website from scratch. In short, I had become a member of my very first Open Source software project. I soon grew to know members of the team very well — they included dang, dan_c, whaletales, bill, rebecca, and I especially got to know Richard Morrell and Lawrence Manning (aslak).

A year later, and the whole thing had ballooned to the point where a company could be formed around marketing, developing and selling the whole kit and caboodle in a more corporate-friendly fashion. In November 2001, I did some contract work for the company to create the very first iteration of the SmoothWall company website, and by January 2002, I was employee #4 of SmoothWall Ltd.; employees #1-3 were (in no real order) Richard, Lawrence and George. George had come from building up IT businesses, and we were looking for someone with biz clout to manage the company while we did all the fun stuff like hacking on cool code, websites and teams. I lasted there until mid-2004. This was a time when the company seemed to be doing well, building new commercial products on the back of the open source project output, and we had nearly tripled in size. Richard had already left by this point, leaving a trail of customers and open source users who loved what he had helped nurture, and some people angry at being sworn at a bit. While I enjoyed the work, we were still a small company and I needed a bit more money coming in. I decided to resign after I was offered a job with an ISP in Edinburgh which paid better, and let me explore system administration as a career as opposed to web development; I had spent a fair while doing webdev at SmoothWall, but I decided that my skills in that area were fading fast, and that I’d need an extensive amount of time to train myself up on newer webdev technologies.

Meanwhile, I still considered myself part of the open source project, and still did some sysadmin and forum twiddling in that regard. However, as time went on, I spent more and more time in my work — especially since some of it had an on-call element — while concurrently, more and more Express development seemed to be occurring in-house, sometimes taking cues — and I assume code — from the corporate products. Now, this is A Good Thing; a corporate entity backporting features and code from its commercial products into its open source endeavours, but there just seemed to be no way for me to do much outwith the realm of the company.

This went on until around 2007, when the smoothwall.org website was redesigned, shortly after the smoothwall.net site was overhauled. The team page had always listed me, and when we had text describing what we did, it always gave a pretty accurate view of what I had contributed. But this new version relegated me to “Moderator and user support”. What? In September, I tried asking why this had happened in the team-only forum:

Incidentally, why am I now listed as a “moderator and support” in the team listing? I have done sys admin, web design, UI design, and development for this project. I haven’t done forum moderation or any level of support for years, literally years. Why are my rather sizable contributions being demeaned in this manner? Why was I not consulted about this change? Why, frankly, should I give a damn about this project any more?

… and …

The bottom line is, I want to contribute to this project, and I want to be involved in more than just forum/support monkey stuff, which it seems I’ve been lumbered with. If it’s not clear from my earlier post, if this is where I’ve been relegated to, I’ll leave. It’s not a threat, it’s not an attempt at blackmail, coercion or anything like that, it’s just a reality. I don’t think it’s fair that some of the strongest contributors - and I don’t mean myself, but some of the very experienced and knowledgable folk in the community - appear to have been marginalised in favour of ultimate control resting with staff. The general attitude outgoing seems to be that we can only help with peripheral segments of the project. I do apologise if I’ve completely misread this, but that’s how it seems from the outside. [...] The community. It has to be the sacred element of any open source project, and it simply can’t be abused under any circumstances. There is talent here, use it, leverage it, but for $deity’s sake, don’t marginalise or ignore it.

No meaningful reply was given, and nothing was done about my entry. At one point, I was challenged to define what I did on Express 3.0 to justify any expansion on my team entry; I replied with this:

That I didn’t contribute anything directly to 3.0 should have no bearing on my standing. Are you writing off everything I’ve done in total over the last nearly seven years? Are you happy to see me demoted to someone who helps on the forums (not that I had a lot of time for that even at my most active)? With that one statement, you have undermined my entire confidence in this project, however, I will not let this get to me, and I will not turn into some [censored] threatening all sorts of crap in a lame attempt to Get Things Done.

My work on the firewall user interface, which was built upon in 3.0, not re-engineered from scratch, was ignored, as was my other work on the website. Sadly, my repeated efforts to engage without threatening anything did nothing. Nothing changed.

A conference call was announced to try and talk through some of these issues, and while methods (telephone? Skype? Gizmo?) and times were discussed, nothing concrete came out and nothing was arranged.

Equally crazy things were done around this time; the administrator’s manual for Express 3.0 was gated behind a signup form, nominally to generate opt-in statistics on SmoothWall usage and hardware configurations, to better understand the population and how to tailor the HCL to increase hardware compatibility. Regardless of the rationale, well-intentioned or not, who hides the freaking documentation for an open source project behind a sign-up form? Meanwhile, a poll was fielded in the public forums to see if Express users would be interested in paying SmoothWall Ltd. for a “features” subscription, including “like anti-spam, web filtering blocklist and settings backup”. The answer was a resounding “no”. These were typical of what seemed to be increasingly odd business decisions, and bizarre attitudes on how to run an open, transparent FOSS project.

So five days ago, I posted to the internal forum explaining that I was considering leaving the project, and asking for comments: not to seek pleadings for me to stay, or to incite insults to force my hand, but again to generate a rational discussion, highlighting my issues:

I still appear to be listed on the website as a forum moderator, completely ignoring the work I’ve done on SmoothWall in the last 7 years. I’ve asked about this before, and nothing was done. I’m finding increasingly little time to squeeze in other things outside my commitments to things like Linden Lab, LugRadio and so on. I feel like there’s a stand-off-ish position being taken when communicating with those I know in the core community.

So, I’m giving serious consideration to resigning from the open source project; I’ve already revoked my forum adminship (did it a month or two ago, actually). All the development work now seems to be done in-house. There’s nothing for me to do whatsoever as a sysadmin. I’m not a good tester. I’m not going to sit and just moderate a forum given my level of involvement in the past. So it feels like time.

I made it crystal clear that this was not an attack, that this was not my trying to “get at anyone”, these were observations and my reaction to those observations.

Five days later, and nothing has happened. Again. So I feel it’s time to say farewell to SmoothWall. I’ve no doubt I’ll still stay part of the user community, at least peripherally, and I bear no real ill will to anyone involved. I’m just very disappointed in the decisions made to get where we are today, and I feel it’s hypocritical to stay connected to a project I have misgivings about. This also isn’t to say that SmoothWall the distro and product line aren’t good; they are, and I’ll likely continue to recommend SmoothWall Express where appropriate, although I’ll likely be replacing my own SmoothWall border solution with a Cisco 871-K9 to get my IOS nous up.

So long, SmoothWall. It was fun.

Syndicated 2008-03-05 05:12:20 from neuro.me.uk » open source

Easy Peasy WordPress Upgrades

My blog software, WordPress, has been nagging me to upgrade it for a few days now. It’s normally an easy process: go to the website, download the tar archive, untar into a temporary directory, then cp -a the files into my blog’s Apache virtual host directory.

However, Aq noticed a slightly easier way: use Subversion. Now I can upgrade WordPress with a simple svn switch command, followed by a click on a database upgrade script. Much, much easier.

Syndicated 2007-11-24 05:53:52 from neuro.me.uk » open source

quotes.lugradio.org is Back

Finally, I’ve managed to get the LugRadio IRC Quotes Database back online on the day that the large gents released LugRadio Season 5’s first episode. I’ve migrated from rash to Chirpy! — the same qdb used by the Mozilla Foundation, amongst others. This migration has been a long time coming, and hopefully LugRadio community folk can enjoy having some fun reading some of the utter, utter random pish we’ve come out with over the last couple of years!

Syndicated 2007-09-24 17:12:13 from neuro.me.uk » open source

A PC Pro Wishlist

Yes, I’m in Rant mode again; just sent this to PC Pro magazine:

To: letters@pcpro.co.uk
From: neuro@well.com
Subject: Wishlist

Hi PC Pro Letters,

I was pretty disgusted to note the completely haphazard manner in which David Fearon researched and documented Ubuntu Linux’s “downsides” in your “Who’s Killing Windows?” feature (p122, issue 156). He references the relatively complex Synaptic package manager application to add and remove software, when for over a year a simple and usable “Add/Remove Applications” applet has been sitting at the bottom of the Applications menu in every standard install of Ubuntu. The rest of the article was littered with errors, and this has led me to a wishlist, a la Jon Honeyball’s (p128-129, issue 156).

  1. PC Pro should endeavour to contract writers who are knowledgeable on their chosen topic. If they can’t write authoritatively about the subject they are submitting articles on, they shouldn’t write them at all. The Real World section is terrible for being full of inaccuracies while purporting to be written by experts.
  2. More editorials from high profile figures from outside the IT industry, and real critical pieces from regular contributors such as Dick Pountain’s diatribe on cover discs.
  3. No more rambling back page rants from Jon Honeyball, please.
  4. More space for readers’ letters; surely you receive more than 10 usable missives a month? This is the age of Web 2.0, interactivity!
  5. Less screengrabs of websites in Real World and elsewhere, cf Steve Cassidy’s MS and IBM grabs (p175-176, issue 156). I understand writers sometimes struggle to find appropriate art, and that pictures speak thousands of words, but it’s akin to BBC News Online posting a shoddy screengrab of google.com to talk about Google. If you have to screengrab, at least get an app or relevant shot.

This is the first I’ve been compelled to write to PC Pro to complain in years of reading, and the magazine is otherwise consistently excellent. Hopefully this will be taken as constructive criticism and not just a random slating! Keep up the good work.

Syndicated 2007-08-13 12:34:14 from neuro.me.uk » open source

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