Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Windows Is Not Free

Three years ago, I read one of the finest articles on the issues concerning the difficulties faced by the advocates of Free and Open Source Software (F/OSS or FOSS), and the endless efforts to get people to give F/OSS an opportunity to work for them.

The article is "Windows Is Free: The Impact of Pirated Software on Free Software", along with the follow up article by the same author, "No Really - Windows Is Free."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I am now a Linux Kernel Developer

No joke.

On Sunday, March 20th, I submitted a patch to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, to fix a compile problem that began when the "binutils" package, that handles programs written in assembly, was updated such that something that was never a problem before became a problem.

The file linux-2.6.38/arch/x86/kernel/entry_32.S had two places where the "END(foo)" did not match the "foo" in its "ENTRY(foo)". The file dates back to 1992, so this problem has been there the whole time and no one noticed because it didn't cause an error until now.

I have no idea if the patch will be accepted, or even noticed, but I've done it and now anyone who gets the compile error...

arch/x86/kernel/entry_32.S: Assembler messages:
arch/x86/kernel/entry_32.S:1422: Error: .size expression does not evaluate to a constant make[3]: *** [arch/x86/kernel/entry_32.o] Error 1

...will know what it is about and how to fix it if my patch doesn't make it into the kernel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Dum vivimus, vivamus! -- 'While we live, let us live!' "

A friend just pointed me to this video:

This reminds me of why I keep my motorcycle, even though it's spent year after year in various garages while I traveled or did more "important" things.

Robert Heinlein explained why in his book _Glory Road_:

"Dum vivimus, vivamus! -- 'While we live, let us live!' "

When the hero was asked by a very pretty woman what the inscription on his sword meant, the hero said,

"Touch life. Touch life twice!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bodhi Linux 0.1.7 and the Enlightenment Desktop

Bodhi has released 0.1.7, a further development release of the Bodhi Enlightenment desktop Linux distribution. As I've mentioned before, Bodhi is focusing on providing usability with a minimal footprint.

By using the Enlightenment graphics environment, Bodhi creates highly configurable, and aesthetically pleasing, visual effects without loading the system down with bloat.

As Bodhi is a tributary of Ubuntu, and so it's no surprise that Bodhi works as a liveCD and not just an install disk. As an old Debian hack myself, I'm so used to install disks doing nothing but installing that it's still a bit of a pleasant surprise.

The installation is fundamentally the same as before, so I don't see a need to go into that again. Well, I will say that the final screen now correctly points out that it is Bodhi Linux, I'm glad that the Bodhi developers took my previous poke in the humorous spirit it was intended.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hero Of The Day!

Today, March 12th, 2011, saw this man, a Mr. D.H. of somewhere in Los Angeles, become a true Hero in the ancient tradition.

Even with plans for his own birthday to be spent at 6 Flags Amusement Park, Mr. D.H. abandoned those plans the night before simply because a friend needed help moving.

There is a saying older than history itself that while an acquaintance will help you move, a friend will help you move bodies. Mr. D.H. has demonstrated in the heroic tradition that it doesn't require actual bodies to make a friend, only someone who will step up when the need is great, and do what must be done regardless of the personal inconvenience.

So a big Hazah! to Mr. D.H., whomever he may be, from everyone who may at one time or another have the opportunity to be his true friend.

And Happy Birthday!


Friday, March 11, 2011

The joys of multi-card reading

As mentioned at the bottom of my prior posting, because of a surprising number of errors being received when I tried to use my venerable external card reader, I had ordered an internal multi-card reader. Well, it arrived in good order, and now the front of my PC has one more blue LED than it had.

I guess this is the way that streetlights have destroyed the night for so many of us, one bulb at a time.

They nicely include both grey and black faceplates, for the utterly pointless aesthetics of having the machine match. It must be important to someone, and I did indeed use the matching faceplate. It was already in place. My server has a silver DVD drive in a black case, and I can't say that anyone has complained.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Recovering from motherboard failures, and clean computing

When last we left the scene, one server was dead, the desktop dieing. However, ordering two new motherboards was successful. They arrived from Magic Micro quickly and in good order, and it was time to clean things up and make two working machines.

First, a note on cleaning. I am sick (and tired) of computer hardware that cannot be cleaned. Laptops that require being sent back to the manufacturers in order to be cleaned, things like that. I remember one call to Circuit City for a Sony Vaio laptop I owned, where the person who answered the phone simply did not understand what I meant when I said the fan needed to be cleaned.

I had to let her go to her script and answer the question "Is the machine overheating and shutting down?" with "Yes", because if I didn't say "yes" she didn't have any option for having me send it in for cleaning at all. So they did the cleaning, and wiped Linux, but I've learned always to do a full backup before letting anyone else even touch my machines.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

SSH, X11, and You

SSH Encrypted Network Connections

Recently I read an article where the author went through great pains to launch an application on a remote system and display it locally, over an encrypted session.

Doing this is actually far, far easier to do than ggarron makes it out to be. It's no more difficult than a single option in SSH. But first, what is SSH to you?

Right off the bat, please, don't fear the command line. If you're new to UNIX style systems, like Linux, the command line can seem daunting. It just sits there waiting for you to type something. Don't let it bother you, as long as you're not root you can't do much harm.

The logo of OpenSSH
Secure Shell is a command line application that allows you to replace telnet, ftp and xhost with a secure link to a remote system with serious protection of the data you transfer.

SSH uses passwords, or can be configured to use Public Key encryption, like GunPG or PGP do. Passwords can work into a system the first time, Public Key authentication has to be set up ahead of time.

For a good SSH primer, if you don't have a "Unix Power Utilities" volume sitting around, this article on seems quite straight forward. There are lots of results if you use Google to look for "ssh howto", and I've noticed that the Ubuntu forums tend to cater well to "first time users". The Frequently Asked Questions list gets rather technical.