zen.org Communal Weblog

June 14, 2007

The Ultimate Guide for Linux on a Sony TX1XP Laptop

Filed under: — brendan @ 12:31 GMT

Installing Kubuntu Linux on a Sony TX1XP laptop is absolutely amazing.

After struggling with xorg.conf myself but never succeeding, I’ve now got a multihead display going with Thunderbird to my left on the laptop screen, and Firefox in front of me on the big monitor. AND, when I change to another one of my four virtual desktops—both screens change. I’ve now got twice the space.

So now one desktop’s got Thunderbird & Firefox, but if I move to another, voila, there’s the PDF of the ISO standard for the C programming language up on my laptop screen, and on the monitor are the editor and terminal window where I’m doing my work based on what’s in the standard.

How COOL. (insert horrible geeky laughter from TV here)

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June 13, 2007

Beware the fury of an angry parent

Filed under: — brendan @ 19:34 GMT

The road I live on leads to a cul-de-sac, so we don’t get much through-traffic. However, enough homes are on the road that strangers who don’t live here often visit those who do. No problem. We have family and friends do just that. But there’s a behavior problem involved.

The “Children Playing” sign at the entry to the road needs to be twice its current size, and have lasers attached which will blow out the tires of the fuckers who go tearing up and down the road so maybe their car would flip and crush their useless skulls in a mesh of metal and glass.

Ahem.

There are more than six children on the road under the age of 10. They love to play together, and go running up and down the sidewalks or ride on their scooters or even their bikes. All of the parents are trying to get them into the habit of looking before the go running into the road, but reality being as it is, sometimes they don’t follow our instructions.

A couple of days ago a lady was coming down the road from the cul-de-sac at an incredible speed. I’d just walked my son down to play with his friends, and wasn’t in a glowing mood, so I stood in the middle of the road waving my arms. When they slowed down, I saw a woman with at least four children (not a seatbelt fastened around one of them) looking at me curious as to why I’d signaled her. I yelled (I won’t be silly and try to suggest I was speaking calmly), “SLOW DOWN, there are CHILDREN on this road!” I was looking at her own kids more than her while I said it. She looked sheepish and drove away…a little more slowly.

Just now, I was walking home with my son’s broken scooter as he went running with his friends up the sidewalk in some game I wasn’t privy to. Down comes a red Volkswagen burning enough fuel to reach its 0-60mph rating pretty quickly. I repeated my Hit me, you fucker pose, and when he slowed to pass me I saw the 20 year-old (at best) looking at me like I was nuts when I yelled basically the same sentence again, word-for-word. To help him deal with the repercussions of his actions, he went tearing out around the corner—again, not losing control of his car, much to my dismay.

I don’t want speed bumps on our road, but at the same time I want something better than the sign no one looks at. I know kids are going to come running out from behind parked cars, and I’ve yet to see more than a few people honor the 10mph rule for this sort of road.

Given that, I also don’t want some useless sack of shit given the power to take away my son’s life.

Jesus, time for some wine.

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June 12, 2007

A Typical Day at the Justice Department, Circa 2005

Filed under: — Sven @ 12:09 GMT

This weeks This Modern World is really funny: http://www.workingforchange.com/comic.cfm?itemid=22406

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June 11, 2007

The oddities of human memory

Filed under: — brendan @ 13:18 GMT


I’m working away, letting iTunes play what it will. Up comes “If This Is It” by Huey Lewis, and I’m pulled back in time. I was twelve years old, listening to the Sports album, my mind buried in the depths of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.

Since I’ve been reading King’s books from age ten (gasp), I don’t think I was very sensitive to horror novels or movies by then. But it must be a little odd that I remember quite so much detail: the dead cat comes back to visit after being buried in a spooky cemetery, and he needs the bits of green garbage bag picked out of his whiskers—the very same garbage bag used to hold his stiffening corpse only the day before.

Perfectly normal to remember, right?

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June 8, 2007

Ubuntu and ease-of-use

Filed under: — brendan @ 10:54 GMT


One neat feature found while using Ubuntu Linux: if you invoke a command you’re accustomed to using (being a command-line user), but it’s not actually installed, you get the helpful message

The program 'pm' is currently not installed. You can install it by typing:
sudo apt-get install speech-tools
Make sure you have the 'universe' component enabled
bash: pm: command not found

How very cool.

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June 7, 2007

Busted on the elevator

Filed under: — brendan @ 15:22 GMT

Mr Suit Guy walked onto the elevator, chatting away into his phone with his loud obnoxious voice. “Of course we can try to make that happen, it’s just a question of putting the right spin on it. Listen, I think when the door closes I’m going to lose my signal, so I’ll ring you back later once I’m upstairs, okay?” The lady standing next to me tried to look like she was comfortable with this large First Class-traveling gentleman making his ownership of the elevator known.

As the doors closed, he announced, “Yup, ok, it’s going now, I’ll give you a call.” He had a smug look of satisfaction as his Star Trek communicator of a mobile phone snapped shut. He got away with it.

Almost. “You know, sometimes this elevator is a real inconvenience,” I said looking at him, “but other times it sure comes in handy.” His head shot up and looked like I’d just approached him after the candy bar had slipped into his shoplifting pocket.

Then the smug exterior came back and he gave me a knowing shit-eating grin. “Yeah, sure does.”

Sometimes there are people you know you’d never get along with.

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Fun blog reading

Filed under: — brendan @ 14:16 GMT

A new community weblog is starting up in Ireland: For Nine Pounds. (And in 2008 retired, only to rise out of the ashes in its new form of The Blog Pound.) The content in its first few days has been plentiful and entertaining. I’ve started to try doing the Live Bookmarks feature of Firefox to get RSS atom feeds of weblogs to help you spend more time reading and less time clicking.

Anyway, it’s pretty good so far. 🙂

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June 6, 2007

Mac Mini becomes Network Grand Master

Filed under: — brendan @ 11:53 GMT

My desktop system has sporadically been freezing up on me, even as I try to swap out various parts to figure out what’s causing my grief. I’m finally giving in and accepting that it’s a 9 year-old system with a mixture of 1-year and 7-year parts. It’s wasted too much of my time. So I’ll start figuring out what to do for a replacement (yay tax deductions for work).

To be practical, I need to move some things to not depend on it until I get the replacement. First on the list is all of my mail folders which are usually available via the IMAP server (running courier-imap) on my desktop system. The little Mac Mini on the corner of my desk is probably the answer; having just upped its memory I figure it’s ready for the task.

Luckily David Bondes in Sweden has spelled out most of the steps to get the Courier IMAP server to build and run under OS X. Elsewhere, I found ttya.net with a more complete and up-to-date set of instructions about how to make authentication work.

The best discovery is MacPorts (formerly DarwinPorts), which uses a FreeBSD-style ports system to make it really easy to build and install random software to run on the system. As you’re about to see, though, the efforts of the MacPorts version of courier IMAP needs some further polishing.

The steps I did:

  • Install MacPorts.
  • Downloaded and installed everything with the fun command
    sudo /opt/local/bin/port install courier-imap
    which did all of: db44, courier-authlib, zlib, openssl, and courier-imap.
  • Edited /opt/local/etc/courier-imap/imapd and set IMAPDSTART to YES (may actually be irrelevant)
  • The command the script said to run to make it start up when we boot:
    sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.courier-imap.plist
  • sudo cp /opt/local/etc/authlib/authdaemonrc.dist /opt/local/etc/authlib/authdaemonrc
  • and edit authdaemonrc to have authmodulelist be just authuserdb.

  • Following the instructions from ttya.net, put entries in a new file /opt/local/etc/authlib/userdb
    that look like
    username uid=511|gid=511|home=/Users/username|shell=/bin/bash|systempw=*|gecos=Real Name
    with userdbpw to generate the hash that replaces the * for systempw. Then run makeuserdb to convert the userdb into a DB4 database. Make sure you have a TAB character, not a space, between username and uid.
  • sudo mkdir -p /opt/local/var/spool/authdaemon
    sudo /opt/local/sbin/authdaemond start
  • I also had to do this to make it generate the SSL key:
    sudo sh /opt/local/share/courier-imap/mkimapdcert
  • And the command to make it start now without having to reboot:
    sudo /opt/local/etc/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.courier-imap/courier-imap.wrapper start
  • I didn’t have to run maildirmake Maildir because I’m syncing mine over en masse.

And it works! The manual bits after port did its deeds were pretty tedious, and the majority should be able to be done as part of the Portfile included with courier-authlib. It should also be possible to use the DirectoryServices API to make an ‘authosx’ sort of module to not require the userdb hack. (That file needs to be regenerated any time someone changes their password, for instance.)

That’s ok—at least I’ve let go of a major depencency on my dying desktop system.

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June 4, 2007

Ahh, memory makes all the difference

Filed under: — brendan @ 15:49 GMT

Cartoon from a great blog entry about upgrading

We’re using an Apple Mac Mini as our server du jour. In addition to keeping all of our CDs ripped on it in iTunes, it is our DHCP server, our nameserver, our printer server, and keeps our free dynamic DNS entry up-to-date so we can avoid paying for a static IP address with our DSL connection. It sits on top of a cool external hard drive for holding the music and backups (as a samba server).

The only problem was the way iTunes would make the rest of the Mini come to a bit of a crawl—even when other computers are just asking the Mini to resolve some hostnames. Today, after the small box sat on my desk for three full months, I finally took half an hour to do the deed. Following an awesome memory upgrade tutorial, I replaced the normal 512Mb of memory in the Mini with a whopping 1GB of luscious fruitful memory ready to serve your every need. Beautiful memory is waiting to talk to you now…cough. Since this is an older (PowerPC-based) Mac Mini, it took very little effort at all; newer ones involve more surgery.

Increasing the memory has really made a difference. I can be in iTunes loading up the white 10Gb second-generation iPod with music to play on the DART when I have to go up into Dublin. But at the same time I could have a Terminal window open, or bring up Safari to look up the generations of the iPods in Wikipedia. And it all just works. What a difference! This helps avoid random excuses used to buy new stuff. Which is a good thing—honest, I’m reminding myself of that all the time. It’s better this way. It still works just fine.

Even better now.

Really. It’ll eventually sink in.

P.S. I’m toying with tossing random cartoons at the beginning of some posts just as an experiment. A friend of ours does some awesome writing in her blog (added to our links on the right of our page as well), but she also includes a great assortment of pictures and cartoons with her posts. I found it’s a neat extra piece to the whole blog entry, and makes it more satisfying than just reading all plain text. Maybe I’ll get tired of hunting for something I like each time, or maybe the few people reading this are on dialup and loathe the waiting time. But let’s see how it plays out. 🙂

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June 3, 2007

Look, it's spinning!

Filed under: — brendan @ 10:11 GMT

Eoin, age five months, decided to start fidgeting at 4:30am and was awake for real at 5:15am. He and I went downstairs so Elana could get some sleep.

In the kitchen, we put the kettle on for some tea (as you do), and Eoin and I started brainstorming. Well, first the sopping wet diaper and damp sleepy suit—certainly the culprits that woke him up—had to be changed. Eoin’s expression as he looked up at me, his gorgeous blue eyes sparkling with innocence, was nonetheless consise and to the point: What should we do? (I channel my thoughts through his random facial expressions.)

His brother Patrick, age five years, was to attend a birthday party that afternoon and we still needed to make the cake. Patrick’s food allergies make it difficult to go to that sort of event because he’s usually unable to eat any of the food. To smooth the process a bit we make our own double-layer chocolate cake with cholocate icing and contribute it to the festivities. Luckily it’s pretty tasty and devoured at most parties. In addition to the cake, lots of parents are incredibly accommodating and put a lot of effort into asking us what sort of things are safe for him to eat, and adjust their plans to use them instead. Absolutely amazing.

I parked Eoin in his exersaucer and started getting the ingredients together. Oven now heating up, I made it past the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt when he started to fuss a bit. I moved the exersaucer to give him a change of view and got the water, vegetable oil, white vinegar, and vanilla together. As I started mixing, he started to complain that this just wasn’t interesting enough. What to do?

Our kitchen is an open plan style with a room next to it lined with lots of shelves like a big pantry, an Ikea cabinet as our folding table, and a washer and dryer stacked up on each other. The washer sat with a finished load of laundry started before we went to bed last night.

Hmmmm.

A few minutes later I finished prepping the cake tins, the batter ready to be poured. Eoin was a couple of feet away from me, staring with fascination at the washing machine in front of him as it did a new rinse cycle. It began to spin faster and faster, and he giggled with delight.

It was six in the morning, another beautiful Irish day beginning outside. The cake went into the oven, the kitchen got cleaned up, and sanity reigned—for a moment. From one spin cycle to the next.

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