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Wednesday·12·November·2008

e-mail.is-not-s.ms //at 20:35 //by abe

from the tit-for-tat dept.

When I first read http://two.sentenc.es/ in (if I remember correctly) madduck’s signature, I thought something like “This can’t be! Why are people castrating themself?”

Although I really understand that the inventor has good reasons for such a personal policy, I notice how much time I waste by trying to fit all the information I want to transmit in the 160 characters a short messages allows — or, even worse, into the 140 characters microblogging services like identi.ca or Twitter allow.

So I had to oppose something to this, but even to only reach the coolness level of the domain “sentenc.es” is hard, you probably can’t top it at all. For luck, I’m not alone and Venty had the right idea for a hostname which has at least some geeky niveau.

So here it is, our pleading for e-mails as long and detailed as necessary:

http://e-mail.is-not-s.ms/

A German version will be available soon at http://e-mail.ist-nicht-s.ms/.

Feel free to add either URL to your e-mail signature. :-)

Oh, and thanks to the Government of Montserrat which allows strangers to register .ms domains without any hassles. :-)

Update / FAQ

Seems to be necessary to make a few things clear…

  1. No, I do not think that everyone using two.sentenc.es has neither style nor knows anything about grammar or punctuation. What I say is that the site two.sentenc.es itself with its comparision to short messages (and especially without reading the author’s blog post about the site’s background) indirectly suggests to drop grammar, punctuation and style by cramming all information into a limit number of characters as often done with short messages or microblogging. And the limitation in senctences leads to tapeworm sentences which I try to avoid since they’re considered bad style, too.
  2. And yes, it’s consciously written and designed to be the opposite of two.sentenc.es — even the colors and the font — and therefore is of course very close to the original. See it as it parody or satire if the closeness makes you angry.
  3. And no, I currently don’t care if the site makes less sense if you don’t know two.sentenc.es — people usually can follow hyperlinks on websites.
  4. We weren’t the first ones who noticed that e-mail is not SMS. An example of the problem described above from 2001.


Thursday·11·September·2008

Häppi Börsdaih, Schlabonskis Welt //at 00:36 //by abe

Aus der Boah-wir-werden-alt Abteilung

Dieter hat’s grade noch rechtzeitig einen Tag vorher gemerkt, daß er ja seit nunmehr 10 Jahren auch im Wörlt Weit Wäpp existiert.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

deuxchevaux.org is back //at 00:11 //by abe

from the It's-always-good-to-have-DSL-in-the-holiday-cottage dept.

My primary e-mail domain deuxchevaux.org was offline for one and a half week due to my (former) domain provider Korypet went bankrupt and probably hadn’t paid the registrar’s invoice for deuxchevaux.org although I had paid Korypet’s invoice. (The domain wasn’t expired. Its expiration date was somewhen in 2009.)

Korypet itself just told its customers (and told it only on request) that they a) will shut down their business because it doesn’t pay off and that b) their service won’t be as good as usual since their head is currently in hospital. I should have noticed that there is something fishy and some details were missing at lastest when they told customers (also only on request) that they have to shut down some services earlier than announced because one of their providers has terminated their agreement with Korypet at short notice. I also should have expected that they couldn’t keep their promise to continue domains and DNS until May 2009 as they couldn’t keep other promised grace periods.

I’m quite sad about how Korypet went down and how bad blood they caused — not only for me — since they offered not only good services for money but also had really good (and personal) support. But I guess that this quality at very low prices was also one of the reasons why they couldn’t keep up their business for longer.

I had one of their UML based, low-end virtual “VD” servers for about six years, and used it as secondary DNS server and IRC client host. I also often thought about getting a second one at some other geographical location (they offered virtual servers in three German cities).

That was the reason why I started to move my domains to them a while ago. They even could fully answer me domain registration questions for which the eDNS and the Hetzner staff only had partial and therefore confusing answers.

Since it was the easiest way, I tried to transfer the domains I had registered with Korypet to the B2C division of their registrar Key Systems, to DomainDiscount24. The web interface isn’t as bad as the name “DomainDiscount24” suggests, but they seem to have communication problems if – as in this case – more than one of their business divisions are involved. It took at least two phone calls until they did the all the necessary things to get the domains transferred from Korypet’s business customer account to my newly created end customer account although they have a special form for former Korypet customers.

Domains I registered after Korypet stopped accepting new domains (well, they just didn’t answer on my domain registration requests anymore) I have registered via eDNS which was a recommendation form someone on the DaLUG mailing list.

My conclusion after these hassles: No more domain registration resellers, only directly interacting with registrars. Never register all domains at the same company. Have more than two DNS servers at different hosters. Don’t have domain registrations and DNS servers at the same company.

So I now register my domains either at DomainDiscount24 or at eDNS. And .ch domains of course directly at SWITCH. (If only all domain registrations would be so simple and uncomplicated as with SWITCH!) And my DNS servers are currently hosted at x|encon in Hannover (Yes, it’s a Xen DomU :-) and Hetzner in Erlangen. And a third one in Switzerland is already planned.

Tuesday·29·July·2008

Dear Aunt Google, //at 23:45 //by abe

from the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel dept.

this is “Do no evil”—urchin.js isn’t.

For luck, urchin.js and friends can be easily blocked using e.g. Firefox plugins like AdBlocker or NoScript, or with filtering proxies like Privoxy. And a line like

address=/google-analytics.com/0.0.0.0
in the dnsmasq.conf of your home router works like a charm, too.

SCNR, via Symlink

Saturday·26·July·2008

Blosxom 2.1.0 released //at 02:03 //by abe

from the Just-in-time-for-Lenny dept.

Today I had the honour to prepare and announce the first Blosxom release after exactly two years and six days.

The primary cause for the Blosxom 2.1.0 release date this week was to get our development efforts of the last two year into Debian Lenny with a nice version number (i.e. one without snapshot dates in the package version ;-). The second biggest cause was that it just was time. But Debian Freezes always give you a good kick in the ass. ;-)

Rhonda plans to prepare an updated blosxom package for Debian during the day. (Update 25-Jul-2008: Packages are available.) So if Planet Debian is broken in a few days, you know whom to blame: Me and my last minute bug fixes. ;-)

But since you seem to be able to read this, the release shouldn’t be too broken – because of course my blog already runs the very fresh Blosxom 2.1.0 release. ;-)

MicroClient Sr. //at 01:16 //by abe

from the *WANT* dept.

About a year ago, I bought a Norhtec MicroClient Jr., a complete 200 MHz MMX-compatible SoC (“Vortex86”) PC so small that it fits into your hand or onto VESA mountings. Althought thought as thin client, the machine has 128 MB RAM and runs Debian from either netboot, USB stick, CF card or 2.5” harddisk without problems and not even that slow.

Later last year, we needed more MicroClient Jrs. at work and since the MicroClient JrSX had a 300 MHz 486SX-compatible SoC processor (“Vortex86SX”) from MSTi and 128 MB DDR RAM instead of SD RAM, we expected them at least in the same performance range and bought a few for ETH and I also bought one for myself. Well, they were about three times slower, since the FPU is missing, not all programs from Debian Etch work fine, e.g. X doesn’t work without patching and recompiling (with Sid, X works, but not the kernel anymore – Update, 26-Jul-2008: See #454776 for a solution for this problem)…

BTW: I had both machines with me at FOSDEM ‘08 at the Debian booth and the MMX-compatible machine also at Chemnitzer Linux-Tage (CLT) at the Symlink booth and in Kurt Gramlich’s talk about ecological computers. So if you saw them there, just imagine the same case, with a twice to three times faster CPU and four times the amount of RAM, but with roughly the same carbon foot-print!

For our thin client purposes at work we now use ALIX boards from PC Engines (Mini-ITX format) with 500 MHz AMD Geode processors. They’re much faster than the MicroClient Jr. and need even less power.

Today, while surfing around on some Mini-ITX shops, I found some computer in obviously MicroClient Jr. case, but with 500 MHz VIA Eden processor and 512 MB of RAM. I first couldn’t believe it. They are selling it as eTC-2500. Since eTC-2300 was one of the brandings of the MicroClient Jr. which is called eBox-2300 officially by the manufacturer DM&P, I searched for eBox-2500, but didn’t find anything useful. Then I looked at the manufacturer’s product page at CompactPC.com.tw and found the eBox-4300 — so it’s really true, they managed to fit a board with 500 MHz VIA processor and half a Gig of RAM into the already fscking small space inside the MicroClient Jr. case, and even without needing more power: Still 15W from the power adaptor. Next stop was Norhtec’s Website. And yes, they also have a new MicroClient product: The MicroClient Sr.. I really need to have one of those for my MicroClient collection! ;-)

Wednesday·23·July·2008

Debian and GPRS with the Nokia E51 //at 01:33 //by abe

from the written-via-GPRS-just-because-I-can dept.

A while ago I wanted to have internet over GPRS (either EDGE or UMTS) via my Nokia E51 working before I leave for the weekend. But whatever I tried, I always got an ERROR if I sent any AT command. Even ATZ and ATH resulted in errors. So started googling for all components: I found AT commands which are said to work with the Nokia E51, I found AT commands which are said to work with Swisscom GPRS and I found many sites describing how to setup a bluetooth modem.

But since the even those AT commands which should work with both, Swisscom GPRS and Nokia E51 didn’t work at all, I noticed that all the Nokia E51 howtos were using the USB cable. So I tried that, too, and it worked immediately. It looks very strange to me that the set of AT commands is dependend on which way you connect to the phone. :-/

So here’s my working PPP config:

hide-password
noauth
connect "/usr/sbin/chat -e -f /etc/chatscripts/swisscom-gprs"
/dev/ttyACM0
460800
defaultroute
crtscts
user "guest"
usepeerdns
noccp
bsdcomp 0,0
lcp-echo-failure 10000
lcp-echo-interval 1000
asyncmap 0
novj
nomagic
and the chat script (/etc/chatscripts/swisscom-gprs):
TIMEOUT 5
ABORT BUSY
ABORT 'NO CARRIER'
ABORT VOICE
ABORT 'NO DIALTONE'
ABORT 'NO ANSWER'
ABORT DELAYED
ABORT ERROR
'' \nAT
TIMEOUT 12
OK ATH
OK ATE1
OK 'AT+CGDCONT=1,"IP","gprs.swisscom.ch"'
OK ATD*99#
CONNECT ""

So I have now four levels of mobile computing available:

Fixing servers while sitting on a park bench at Schanzengraben
  • Nokia E51 with T9 and phone keyboard (for short texts)
  • Nokia E51 with Nokia SU-8W bluetooth keyboard (for longer texts and emergencies, see photo on the right)
  • ASUS EeePC (7", 630 MHz Celeron, 2GB RAM, 4GB SSD) with Nokia E51 as modem (complete computer, but still small, portable and nearly always with me)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (14" wide screen, 2.2 GHz Core2Duo, 4GB RAM, 160 GB SATA Disk) with Nokia E51 as modem (complete computer with power and disk space)

Should suffice in nearly all situations. ;-)

Wednesday·18·June·2008

How to get Network Manager working with ratpoison //at 23:53 //by abe

from the Hacking-the-desktop dept.

Using GNOME Network Manager is a neat way to connect to wireless or virtual private networks from a laptop running Debian Lenny, Sid, Etch with Backports or any of the *buntu distributions. You can control everything from the system tray. But not all window managers have a system tray. And with some window managers it’s not obvious how to make them work with one of those lean third party trays and panels.

Especially my favourite window manager for small displays as on the EeePCratpoison – insolently puts any panel or tray in the middle of the screen by default. It took me a moment to find out how to make ratpoison work with my favourite third party system tray trayer (which can handle transparency and is only a system tray, no taskbar).

First we need to make ratpoison ignore the trayer on the one hand and and reserve space for it on the screen. Fiddling around with preconfigured frames didn’t work well and the following way is also more straight forward:

  1. trayer always has “panel” as window title, so adding the following line to your .ratpoisonrc makes ratpoison ignore trayer:
    unmanage panel
  2. Now all windows overlap the trayer, so we need to configure the space for it. Trayer in the default configuration shows up at the bottom and has a height of 26 pixels, so we tell ratpoison to add a padding of 26 pixels at the bottom of the screen by adding the following line to the .ratpoisonrc:
    set padding 0 0 0 26

Now we are confronted with the problem that these settings only apply to new windows, not ones which were already running when ratpoison starts. I usually start my X session using an .xinitrc or an .Xsession which calls the window manager using exec at the end.

We can start the trayer later though by spawning a subshell in the background with a sleep at the beginning. Also the Network Manager applet (nm-applet) can be started that way. In my case the end of the .Xsession looks like this:

( sleep 1; \
  trayer --align right --edge bottom --distance 0 \
	 --expand true \
	 --transparent true --alpha 128 --tint 0 \
	 --SetDockType true --SetPartialStrut true & 
  nm-applet & ) &

exec ratpoison

The result could look like this:

My EeePC desktop with ratpoison, trayer and two aterms

The other programs in the system tray are from right to left: nm-applet (GNOME Network Manager), Twitux (GTK Twitter Client), Audacious, Opera, Pidgin (formerly known as GAIM), Icedove (unbranded Mozilla Thunderbird). The clock on the bottom left is from the package osdclock.

Oh, and although I’m fine with trayer: if anybody knows a possibility to control the GNOME Network Manager without the need for a system tray, I would be very happy if you could tell me. :-)

Update 18-June-2008 23:45:

Matto Fransen used my howto to get ratpoison and nm-applet working together on Ubuntu. He also explains in his blog post, what may be necessary to get nm-applet working as intended in the first place — things I already had forgotten when I wrote this posting initally. :-)

Friday·06·June·2008

One month with Debian Lenny on the EeePC //at 19:15 //by abe

from the small-is-beautiful dept.

I ogled with an ASUS EeePC since it was announced, but didn’t want to order one abroad. So I waited until they became available in Switzerland. Digitec is the official EeePC importer for Switzerland and seeems also to be the moving power for yet to come the Swiss localisation of the EeePC. But initially they only offered imported EeePCs with German keyboard layout, but since I really got used to the US layout, I didn’t want to buy ay new laptops or keyboards with German layout.

When asking them about US layouts they told me they won’t import from the US and that their competitor Steg Computer is importing US models. But I wasn’t comfortable with Steg and EeePCs also were more expensive there, so I hesitated ordering at Steg.

So it was quite unexpected for me when US models showed up on digitec’s website. (Interestingly I never received any mail from their advertised EeePC newsletter, not even when they added 2G models t their repertoire.)

So at the end of March (and therefore later as most other geeks ;-) I ordered an ASUS EeePC at digitec. For me, white laptops look like Macs (and Macs are for sissies or masochists ;-) — so I had no problems to decide that I want a black EeePC with US keyboard layout. 2G was to small for my purposes (and also not that much cheaper) and 8G not available. So I went with the 4G, since Debian doesn’t need so much space if you choose the right packages (i.e. neither or at least not that much of GNOME or KDE ;-). I preferred the 4G over the 4G Surf because of the bigger battery capacity (and not because of the webcam which I consider funny but useless:-).

Initially the delivery date was set the 28th of March. Then it was subsequently set to “beginning of April”, “mid of April”, “end of April” and “beginning of May”. It finally arrived on 8th of May. In the meanwhile there were reports that even the 4G has been equipped with the smaller battery of the 4G Surf because of some battery shortage after some battery plant burnt down. But fortunately the delivery problems with black 4G US models doesn’t seem to have its reason there and my 4G has a 5200 mAh battery (at least according to its label and ACPI).

I also ordered a 2 GB bar of Corsair ValueSelect RAM so that I can pump up the RAM of my EeePC by factor four (for about 10% of the price of the EeePC itself) resulting in having half as much RAM as disk space. Well, I guess, I won’t do suspend to disk in that configuration… ;-)

The original Xandros based Linux only noticed 1 GB of the installed 2 GB as already noted on many other places in the web. But that doesn’t really matter, since it only lasted until I found out how to restore it from DVD in case I want to sell the EeePC later (e.g. for getting the successor). It’s fine for novices, but Linuxes feel strange if you can’t even get a console or a terminal with a command line. ;-)

The Debian EeePC installer worked fine except that it argued over a checksum error on our mirror which wasn’t reproducable after the installation anymore. I’ve chosen the EeePC to be my first (nearly) pure Lenny installation — compared to the three machines running Sid (i386, amd64 and kfreebsd-i386). It though has a few packages from experimental (mostly xulrunner-1.9) installed.

As window managers I have installed ratpoison, FLWM and FVWM. ratpoison — best described as screen for X (although you can’t detach and reattach) since it’s my personal preferences for being productive without big screen resolutions and flwm for a low-resource window manager which can be used intuitivly by both, geeks and non-geeks (and still doesn’t look like Windows at all ;-). And FVWM is installed because it’s my default window manager on all machines with bigger or multiple screens – to be able to compare it with my usual environment.

As web browser I’ve got Opera as primary browser (as everywhere else, too) and Conkeror (the EeePC is the test-case for upcoming Debian package of Conkeror) as well as links2 and lynx on the (nearly) text-only side on it, although I need them seldomly.

As office programs (as I would ever need some ;-) I’ve got AbiWord and Gnumeric installed since I already use a few GNOME applications (e.g. Network Manager, Twitux, etc.) and OpenOffice.org would take up 170 MB more disk space (then including OOo Draw and OOo Impress) and Siag Office is no more in Debian since years. (Initially I had OpenOffice.org installed instead of AbiWord and Gnumeric until I noticed that I need some of the GNOME libraries anyway.)

I also decided that I will need LaTeX then and when so TeX Live also got its chunk of the 4 GB of disk space.

I also have a bunch of games on the EeePC. Unfortunately there are a few games which don’t work well on the EeePC due to it’s resolution being smaller than 800x600, so I deinstalled them already again, e.g. I can’t play Cuyo on the EeePC but flobopuyo. Sauerbraten segfaults, but Doom (prboom with freedoom WADs) works fine. Further non-working games unfortunately include Battle of Wesnoth and XFrisk.

Still, although quite some parts of GNOME and GNOME Office, TeX Live, ScummVM with Flight of the Amazon Queen and Beneath a Steel Sky, GNU Emacs 22, Iceweasel 3 (aka Mozilla Firefox 3), Icedove (aka Mozilla Thunderbird) and the Iceowl (aka Mozilla Sunbird) are installed, only 2.3 GB of the available hard disk space are used by the installation (i.e. without my home directory).

Oh, and btw: Although except the very compact and a little bit wobbly keyboard the EeePC doesn’t feel really small to me (I’ve got quite small hands), but when I sat down in front of my 14” ThinkPad T61 after a day or two with EeePC, the T61, — especially screen and keyboard — felt huge as if it would be some 17” or even bigger notebook. ;-)

ThinkPad vs EeePC ThinkPad vs EeePC ThinkPad vs EeePC ThinkPad vs EeePC

OTOH I still think that a 1920×1200 (which means nearly four xterms in a row) resolution on a 14” notebook would be a good idea, especially compared to the 1440×900 (which means nearly three xterms in a row) my T61 has. ;-)

Personal Resumée after one month

Pro EeePC
  • It’s geeky. If you show up with it, people want to lift it to see how much it weights and try the tiny keyboard. They’re surprised that 800x480 aren’t that small and that the performance isn’t that bad.
  • Very compact and robust. With the T61 I always fear that its edges are too close to the the outside of my backpack and could be damaged that way.
  • The price of course: CHF 499 at digitec (plus CHF 54 for the 2 GB RAM)
  • Runs Linux ex factory. So yu don’t have to expect that many driver hassles.
  • RAM upgrades are very straight forward and do not void the warranty. (BTW: The sticker over one of the screws which probably should prove the integrity can be removed and placed again easily… :-)
  • The weight. 0.92 kg can be easily held wit one hand, also because of less leverage effect as with full-size laptops.
  • The SSD despite it’s size. Being such lightweight you accelerate the EeePC unmindfully even when it runs. But it doesn’t matter, at least not to the hard disk. And it boots very fast, especially after the usage of insserv.
  • Intergrated Ethernet network interface. (Hey, the MacBook Air hasn’t a builtin one, not even an external shipped with it! ;-)
  • Three USB sockets (the MacBook Air has only one which is usually taken for the Ethernet network adaptor — Ok, with the EeePC usually one is taken for the Bluetooth dongle, but then are still two sockets left… ;-)
  • Great contrast on the builtin screen.
  • External VGA output. You have to configure X.org to make the virtual screen big enough (e.g. 2048×2048 instead of the default 800×800).
  • Despite its size quite a lot of space for modifications inside the case. Especially a bluetooth case mode should be no big deal.
Contra EeePC
  • The keyboard: keys smaller than usually (ok, wouldn’t work otherwise ;-), very wobbly, no precise contact depth (pressing Shift and Fn with one finger often doesn’t press Fn right), not all keys on the same plane, unusual offsets between the key rows (the number row has about half a key width offset to the left) or position of keys (I often hit Ins when I want Home, Del when I want Backspace or Fn when I want Ctrl, the ~ key is between Esc and F1, Up is between Slash and Right Shift, etc.)
  • The position of the power button: It’s exactly where I want to put thumb when holding the EeePC solely with the right hand. And yes, I already accidentially switch it off several times because of that. For luck the button doesn’t work at all when the lid is closed, because you still can reach it easily while it’s closed.
  • The mouse button(s): It only has two buttons which are one part you can press more to the left and more to the right side. And if you press it in the middle you randomly get either a left or a right click. You have to press it very hard to get both clicks at the same time. (e.g. to emulate a third middle button). Three separated mouse buttons would have been way better.
  • It has (only) a touchpad. I definitely prefer thumbsticks as the ThinkPads have, but got used to it, though. I have seen worse touchpads, too.
  • The noisy and not very precisely beared fan, which seems to strife its environment when the EeePC is being accelerated. Whih happens quite often because of its size and weight and because the SSD doesn’t mind acceleration. The fan does mind – and you hear it. :-(
  • Some programs need minimum 800x600 resolution to work well.
Pro ThinkPad (in direct comparision)
  • Thumbstick.
  • One of the best laptop keyboards around.
  • Three easy to distinguish mouse buttons.
  • Even ressource-hungry programs like Liferea work fine.
  • Quite big screen resolution (1440×900).
  • Bigger battery, space for additional batteries.
  • Could be a workstation replacement.
Pro Lenny on the EeePC
  • The installer image of the Debian EeePC Project works out of the box. All necessary drivers are available, if you include the non-free repositories and the eeepc.debian.net repositories.
  • Stable enough for daily use. (IMHO Debian Testing – and even Debian Unstable – is more stable as many other distribution’s stable releases, e.g. those from SuSE.)
Con Lenny on the EeePC
  • My favourite feed reader Liferea has changed its cache format since the version in Debian Etch, so I can’t sync Liferea caches between my Debian Etch running T61 and the Testing running EeePC. Well, fortunately the version of Liferea in Debian Etch still works on Debian Lenny, so I just downgraded the package to the version from Etch and set it on hold. I don’t use it on the EeePC though since it needs way too long to start (about 10 to 15 minutes compared to 1 to 3 minutes on the T61)
Summary

I’m very happy with the EeePC and I didn’t expect that it would replace my 14” ThinkPad in so many (but still not all) situations. :-)

Sunday·25·May·2008

Google Open Source Jam and Webtuesday Hackday //at 22:45 //by abe

from the Clubbing-for-Geeks dept.

I was at two geek events in Zurich this week: At the Google Open Source Jam Zurich on Thursday evening and at the first Webtuesday Hackday on Saturday.

Somehow I expected both events to be quite similar, but they weren’t.

Google Open Source Jam

When I read “Jam” or “Jam Session” I think of Jazz musicians spontaneously playing together. So for me “Open Source Jam” sounded like a hack session where some spontaneous coding is done. But there was no spontaneous collaboration at Open Source Jam at all. It’s just (more or less spontaneous) talks about different topics and chatting. So I was quite disappointed from that event.

There were though quite a lot of people I knew from e.g. Webtuesday, Chaostreff or Debian. I even met some people I just knew from IRC until then.

Half of the talks were sole propaganda talks though, e.g. for Webtuesday Hackday, OpenExpo and Soaring as a geek sport. Not really wrongly placed talks, but not what I expected in talks at Open Source Jam.

The few rooms and floors I saw reminded me very much to IKEA Children’s Paradies, just even more motley. Though it felt all sterile and wasn’t by far as cool as I expected after what I read elsewhere of Google offices.

I also think that several of the Google employees showed some contrived friendlyness, and questions I asked e.g. why I have to give them my e-mail address and employer’s name (what do unemployed or self-employed people do?) got answered with answers I do not really believe – like “for security”. A leopard doesn’t change its spots. A data squid probably neither, even not at events labeled with OSS and said to be for the community.

I suspect that finding new employees is one of the reasons behind such events at Google. But after my first visit at one of their locations, this company still makes me feel uncomfortable. And I’m even more sure than before that I wouldn’t want to work there.

Not sure if I’ll attend the Google Open Source Jam a second time.

Webtuesday Hackday

Webtuesday Hackday also was not as I expected, but still more close to my expectations: the Webtuesday crowd gathers for hacking instead of having long talks. :-)

There were surprisingly many people from outside Zurich, from Munich and Belgium, from Lake Constance and Lausaunne – not only the usual suspects (who were there anyway ;-).

The event took place at Liip’s new office. They still look a little bit empty and steril, but all the toys (mini rugby balls, Wii, plush figures on floor lamps) and people around made them very alive. And they had very cool lamps in the form of their company logo in the office. They sure have a good interior designer. :-)

Although most participants found time to do some hacking, many found less time than they expected so we hope that we can glue the talks a little bit more together in regards of timing to cause less interruptions of the hacking.

The food was also better at Hackday, too, but mostly because we ate outside. ;-) For lunch we were at Lily’s Stomach Supply at Langstrasse (very recommendable!) and in 6he evening we were at Pizzeria Grottino 79 near Helvetiaplatz. Had a Pizza Vesuvio with Gruyère cheese there.

Hackday also had a surprise for me: The IRC channel at Hackday was but when I entered the channel there were someone in I didn’t expect there: tklauser aka Tobias Klauser aka tuxedo. Even more surprising, he read about my project idea for Hackday – a semantic feed cache proxy – and liked it, so he decided to come over to Zurich and join the project.

We didn’t came that far until Tobias had to leave again, but the progamming language and partially also libraries had been nailed: Ruby and it’s WEBrick framework. After the Hackday I worked on it a few more hours and it now already saves feeds to a cache. The Mercurial repository is at http://noone.org/hg/sfc-proxy.

There were several reasons which spoke for using Ruby instead of Perl (my favourite progamming language and the one I’m most experienced in): Ruby brings HTTP and RSS support already in it’s standard classes and Tobias is more experienced in Ruby than Perl. I started to learn Ruby a few years ago to look beyond my own nose and to get my hands dirty on some object-oriented and nice programming language, but I hadn’t found an appropriate project until now, so this was one more reason to not do it in Perl.

I also worked on my Debian package of Conkeror during Hackday. It’s already usable and I now use Conkeror as primary web browser on my EeePC, but e.g. the man page is still missing. As soon as I have the minimum in necessary documentation ready I’ll let it upload to Debian Experimental (since its dependency XULRunner 1.9 is also only in Debian Experimental yet). The Mercurial repository for the Debian packaging of Conkeror is at http://noone.org/hg/conkeror/debian

Those who were still at Hackday in the evening decided that the Webtuesday Hackday should become a regular institution and should take place approximately every two months, but stay a one day event (for now). I already look forward to the next Webtuesday Hackday.

No more NDA for events hosted at Google Zurich? //at 19:14 //by abe

from the big-monopolistic-american-company dept.

I first heard about the Open Source Jam Zurich somewhere at BlogCampSwitzerland 2.0 (which was more a TechCrunch7 than a BlogCamp — why did the organisators call it BlogCamp?) and subscribed to its Google Group.

At Linuxday.at, hansmi (who seems to be assimilated bywork for Google) gave me a flyer about Open Source Jam Zurich. And while reading it, I noticed that it will be held at Google’s Zurich office. Remembering the need for early registration for one of the recent Webtuesdays because of signing an NDA being necessary to get into Google’s office, I asked him, if I need to sign an NDA if I want to take part at Open Source Jam Zurich. He acknowledge it and so I returned the flyer and forgot about the Open Source Jam Zurich.

Today Gürkan told me, he was at Open Source Jam Zurich at Google and he didn’t need to sign any NDA. He also told me that he knows other people which didn’t take part either because of the expected the need to sign an NDA. I was puzzled.

Did Google really started to realize that “Open Source” and “Free Software” doesn’t fit together with “Non-Disclosure Agreements”?

I hope so, because this would make it possible to come to all future Webtuesdays — my favourite local geek event — and not only to those not taking place at Google.

Wednesday·21·May·2008

A good day //at 17:43 //by abe

from the summing-up-smileys dept.

Today was a good day — at least if I average all the things happened today. And since Twitter.com is currently down and there’s no way all those things fit in 140 characters, I decided to pack them in a “short” blog post:

  • This afternoon one backplane of our newest backup server caught fire. :-( No collateral damages though. :-) The machine is currently at the manufacturer and should be back on Monday.
  • My EeePC (more about it in an upcoming blog post) recently overheated and switched off. It looked as if it since then didn’t turn off correctly anymore, but power and the fan stayed on although the operating system was shut down. Today I found out with help of the debian-eeepc-devel mailing list that my EeePC wasn’t damaged but the snd_hda_intel driver caused the machine to not shut down correctly. One rmmod line into /etc/default/halt and it shuts down perfectly and fast again. :-) See also the hint in the Debian Wiki.
  • Even more: I’m sure that it not even has been turned by being hit by something through its neopren bag inside my backpack as I initially expected. It turned out that I must have not noticed that it wasn’t properly shut down and put it in the neopren case in that condition :-( since the power button simply doesn’t work when the lid is close. The good news: It doesn’t seem to have carried away any damage. :-)
  • I had the same problem as Beat had: I couldn’t import certificates into my Nokia E51 mobile phone. I already tried to import the PEM and the DER versions of the CAcert root certificates but it just didn’t work. After Beat found out (Kudos to maol who pointed me to Beat’s blog posting), which certificate format is necessary, I found out that while the CAcert PEM certificates have the correct Content-Type header (application/x-x509-ca-cert) the DER certificates have not — they are served as text/plain. Downloading them to my server, adding the right content type to the config and downloading them from there again with the mobile phone worked fine and I now don’t need to acknowledge anymore the certificate of my IMAP server each time I want to read my e-mails on the mobile phone. :-)
  • One more EeePC thing. During a discussion on the debian-eeepc-devel mailing list, I noted that the maximum summed up resolution of the internal and external display seems to be 800×800, but it turned out that you can configure that in your xorg.conf. :-) The screen section of my xorg.conf now looks like this:
    Section "Screen"
            Identifier      "Default Screen"
            Monitor         "Configured Monitor"
            SubSection "Display"
                    Virtual         2048 2048
            EndSubSection
    EndSection
    
    See also the xorg.conf in the Debian Wiki.

So if I sum up the smileys in this blog posting, I get 5 happy ones and only 2 sad ones. I think being happy outrun being unhappy today. ;-)

Now I want to dive into my bath tub to get this smell of burning servers off me and my cloths. ;-)

Thursday·01·May·2008

Dilbert.com became even more better //at 16:07 //by abe

from the pure dept.

nion argued about the new Dilbert.com website now using flash instead of GIFs and I responded that it’s not as bad since Dilbert.com now also officially offers RSS feeds — without Flash.

It looks as if Scott Adams got more responses from nion type people since he divides the feedback to the new Dilbert.com site into three groups: Those who are angry about flash and bloat (mostly techies and linuxers), those who are fine with the design and features, but angry about the slowness due to overload and those who are fine with the design and features and ignore the speed. I’m in none of these groups.

But Scott Adams valued the feedback and responded especially to the first two groups of critics with something for which he couldn’t have found a better URL:

http://dilbert.com/fast

With this pure Dilbert, nion should now be happy again. I still prefer the RSS feeds though.

Friday·18·April·2008

Harddisk prices gone mad //at 17:47 //by abe

from the I-never-understood-business-math dept.

Cut and paste from Brack’s SATA harddisk pricelist:

Samsung SpinPoint S166,  HDD,  80GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms,  8MB Cache, SATA II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD082GJ   CHF  53.00
Samsung SpinPoint S250,  HDD, 250GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms,  8MB Cache, SATA-II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD250HJ   CHF  64.00
[...]
Samsung SpinPoint T166s, HDD, 400GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms, 16MB Cache, SATA-II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD403LJ   CHF 109.00
Samsung SpinPoint T166s, HDD, 500GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms, 16MB Cache, SATA-II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD501LJ   CHF 101.00

So from 80 GB to 250 GB the price difference is less than CHF 10 and 500 GB harddisks are cheaper than 400 GB harddisks of the same type? We live in a strange world.

And no, none of this harddisks is marked as special price or promotion.

Oh and for all those not having CHF as your daily currency:

CHFEURUSD
1.00€0.626417$0.997506
1.59638€1.00$1.5924
1.0025€0.627983$1.00

(Rates from x-rates.com.)

Dilbert.com changed - to the better //at 13:04 //by abe

from the feeds dept.

nion argues about the new Dilbert.com website now using flash instead of GIFs.

Well, he hasn’t looked right: Dilbert.com offers now flash and static images. And the last ones are now much easier than ever to view or fetch, because Dilbert.com now has RSS feeds. Ok, at the moment, the feed seems broken respectively empty, but I have the last week of Dilbert comics in my feed reader. In colour!

Additionally Dilbert.com is opening its archive. (The link to the blog post currently broken, too.) Back to 2001 is said to be available now, the reminder is in the works

The new Dilbert.com site worked fine yesterday but seems to have some problems today. But I expect that they will fix that soon. :-)

Noticed it btw. because the inofficial Dilbert feed from tapestry included a broken image yesterday. (Works fine now, but no new comic in that feed today…)

Monday·14·April·2008

New mobile phone and what the Nokia 6310i did better than the E51 //at 00:31 //by abe

from the habits-and-gadgets dept.

Habits control our choice sometimes more than we would like to admit…

New mobile phone

Since about two weeks ago I’ve a new mobile phone. The Nokia E51 will replace my slowly dying Nokia 6130i.

I knew I needed a new mobile phone when my 6310i started to turn off itself shortly after I turned it on. I needed up to about ten times switching it on to make it stay on. Sometimes it already switched itself off before I could enter the PIN. Looks like a loose contact, but I never figured out where it is.

Although I know about Nokia’s behaviour in Germany, I still had to buy a Nokia, because after using a 6130 (the GSM 1800 only clone of 6110 and 6150), a 6210i and the already mentioned 6130i over the last decade, I got so used to how Nokia mobile phones are navigated and how you type with Nokia phones (blank on 0, point and comma on 1, case changing on #), everything else (especially those with blank on 0 and case changing on *) would be worse than the half-dead mobile phone, I’m currently using.

Spoilt for choice

So which Nokia? For a long time I refused to buy a mobile phone with a camera or radio in it. But since the E70 was no more available (and is said to have quite buggy software) and the E61 has been replaced with the E61i, there are no more smartphones without a camera, at least not from Nokia. But I also found some useful uses of camera phones. After a while I could track down the number of choices to four: Communicator E90, E61i, E65 or E51:

Sizeasy Size Comparison: Nokia E90 vs Nokia 6310i vs Nokia E61i vs Nokia E51 vs Nokia E65

The picture above shows that the main differences of those models is size: Although having a QWERTY keyboard on the phone would be nice (for ssh, Jabber, the web, etc.) and the E90 being only slightly bigger than the 6310i on the paper, the size difference to the 6130i is more than only noticeable since the 6310i tapers off at the top. Besides, for the price of an E90, I get an E51 and an EeePC together… (Thanks to maol in whose blog I read about Sizeasy.)

The E61i also has a (very small) QWERTY keyboard and is primarily only much wider than any of the other phones. It even has no bigger screen resolution than the E51 or E65. (Only the no more available E60 – a normal monoblock smart phone like the E51 – had a better resolution: 352x416 pixel instead of 240x320 pixels.) And since I usually carry my mobile phone in my trouser pockets, width matters most.

So I had the choice to either get a phone which is too big for my trouser pockets or one without a QWERTY keyboard. The I remembered those foldable external keyboards for PDAs. There are at least three different makers of foldable bluetooth keyboards said to be working with Nokia Symbian S60 3rd Edition phones, so a QWERTY keyboard on the phone itself was no more important. (Only passwords will need to be entered over the number keypad since I don’t want to broadcast them… ;-)

The choice between E65 and E51 was made easier by their reviews (E65, E51) at Xonio: The E65 seems to have not that good standby and phoning times while the E51 seems to be quite good regarding endurance.

I looked through the usual shops around Z¨rich HB: Swisscom Shop, MobileZone, Phonehouse: All had the same prices (about CHF 250 for a two years contract at CHF 25 per month), except that Phonehouse had no E51 available in the shop. Interestingly digitec had a much lower price (CHF 100 for the same contract) and the choice of color (the shops always only offered one color), so I ordered a black one there.

Converting a prepaid card to a postpaid contract isn’t that easy

I wanted to change from a prepaid card to a postpaid contract, both at Swisscom, so I already own a SIM card. But digitec only offers new contracts including a SIM card or contract renewals, but no switching to a contract with keeping the number. And a new SIM card costs CHF 40 extra in their online shop. So I called their hotline and asked. The answer was: I need a new SIM card since prepaid SIM cards can’t be converted to postpaid SIM cards (but can be used with different providers).

When I came to the shop, the employee needed three tries to fill out the Swisscom form for the number migration and still did it wrong somehow. No postpaid contract acknowledgement from Swisscom after two workdays. So I called their hotline. They told me, the wrong SIM card number has been entered and I need to make digitec to enter the correct one.

A few days later back at the shop they were overextended. After a while an internal e-mail was on the employee’s screen which clearly stated that in case of prepaid to postpaid conversions (and a few other cases) no new SIM card must be given out and if this happens too often for the same employee he will be charged the CHF 30 a new SIM card costs digitec… (So they have a 25% margin of every sold SIM card…)

About one hour after they closed their doors (I was there about ten minutes before shop closing time) Swisscom had accepted the contract changes and I had a credit note of CHF 40 for the erroneously sold SIM card. And the mobile phone became even cheaper than in all the other shops. :-)

New gadget, new features

So after a week, I can say that in general I’m quite happy with the new phone. It has a nice web browser, an IMAP over SSL capable mail reader and a feed reader, it can connect to the internet via WLAN and the 240x320 resolution isn’t as bad as I expected. I already have a Symbian port of PuTTY on it and sshing into my workstation works fine, even if I currently only have the phone keyboard and T9 as input device and helper.

I also have Opera and Opera Mini installed, but to my own surprise the included web browser from Nokia (said to be based on Apple’s HTML rendering engine WebKit which itself is based on KDE’s HTML rendering engine KHTML) is way better, especially in navigation, even although Opera Mini 4.1 caught up a little bit in comparison to Opera Mini 4.0. (Hey, and you hear that from a web browser fetishist and Opera fan!)

The only thing which currently really bugs me on the builtin web browser is that even an enforced updating of my feeds sometimes just results in nothing. Maybe a firmware upgrade can help…

As barcode reader, I have installed the i-nigma Reader. (The Quickmark QR Code Reader download just showed the content of something which seems to be a Windows DLL instead of downloading it. *plonk*) It’s amazing how fast the i-nigma Reader recognizes a 2D barcode from Semapedia on my laptop screen.

Of course I also have ScummVM on my new Symbian phone.

I will also play around with Amora which turns your Symbian S60 mobile phone into a remote control for your presentations on Linux (or any other unixoid operating system) running laptop as soon as I managed to get an amd64 Debian package of it. (Currently there seems only i386 packages and no source packages available, but this may be due to the “Show all downloads” link gives a server error…) Oh, and many thanks to foosel since I found Amora in her blog.

BTW: Any recommendations for a free (preferably free as in DFSG) Jabber and/or IRC client for Symbian S60 3rd Edition? I already downloaded and installed Gizmo5, but somehow it refuses to work each time I try to create an Gizmo account.

Accessories

Since the E51 has no QWERTY keyboard, I ordered a Nokia SU-8W Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard at Brack. It was a little bit bigger and thicker than expected, but OTOH the metal case seems to be very stable and robust.

Since this keyboard is designed to fit on Nokia mobile phones it also has the two Nokia typical soft keys and the middle select key. So nearly all phone functions can be used with the external keyboard, even turning off the phone’s key lock. Only locking the phone’s keys again doesn’t work via the external keyboard.

Additionally I equipped my E51 with a 2GB microSD card. Probably a bluetooth headset for driving will come once, too.

What the Nokia 6310i did better than the E51

There are a few things which are annoying regarding Nokia’s UI consistency over the years. That the backspace key is no more the right soft-key is ok. It took me only five tries to get my e-mail account setup without hitting the abort key (no “Do you really want to abort?” questions ;-) instead of backspace key.

But what’s really annoying is that the menu navigation via number keys only works for the first level and no more for all levels. So no more “menu 4 4 4” to switch to manual network selection.

It’s also annoying that you (or at least I ;-) can’t enter phone numbers as the recipient of SMS directly anymore, at least those SMS never reach their receipient neither do I get an error message.

Same counts for the missing acoustic acknowledgment of locking the keypad. You only hear pressing the first key but not even the second key anymore.

And if you press the volume keys on the side of the phone, you also have neither acoustic nor visual feedback if you pressed them hard enough so that the volume changed. The 6310i had visual and acoustic feedback.

The alarm clock in the E51 seems to be artifically castrated: After having pressed the snooze button two or three times there is no more snooze button on the right the soft key anymore. With the 6310i you could press snooze as often as you want. Only disadvantage with the 6310i in regards of the alarm clock: the snooze time was much too long (10 minutes)…

Oh, and what’s also annoying is that I can’t move over the whole addressbook of my 6310i in one piece but have to send each contact via bluetooth or infrared and then the E51 even get’s the contact names mixed up: ‘Beckert, Axel’ becomes ‘Firstname: “Beckert,” Lastname: “Axel”’… Great! I have to edit nearly all contacts manually… The cut and paste feature helps here, but it takes about one to two dozens of key clicks to copy the whole content of a filed into the clipboard…

The E51 can run several applications at the same time and that you can switch between them any time. While that’s generally a nice feature I started using quite soon, it’s sometimes annoying that you have to wait up to a second or so after you’ve chosen some menu entry until you can do anything further. Also the screen often flickers while loading applications, showing them, then showing only the background, showing them again, etc.

… but finally

I already got used to the new mobile phone so much that I already have the feeling that my old 6310i became more thick since I have the E51. (Won’t think about how thick the about ten years old 6130 feels now compared to the slim E51… :-)

Sunday·30·March·2008

Kleinere Neuigkeiten rund um Planet Symlink //at 00:41 //by abe

Aus der raus-und-rein Abteilung

Mal eine kleine Zusammenfassung der letzten Änderungen auf Planet Symlink:

Tobias “tuxedo” Klauser hat vor längerer Zeit mal ein Update der Planet-Software gemacht, was einige Probleme, vor allem mit Blogs in UTF-8 behoben hat.

Allerdings hat der Planet momentan (seither? schon immer?) den Bug, dass in der Sitebar die Links zu den Feeds zurück zum Planet zeigen. Werden wir uns noch näher anschauen und dann flicken. Update 00:37 Uhr: Tobias hat’s recht schnell gefunden und geflickt. URI ist nunmal ungleich URL, insbesondere in Variablennamen. :-)

Eventuell werden sich Tobias oder ich auch mal Planet Venus als mehr oder weniger kompatible Alternative zu Planet Planet anschauen. Mal sehen…

Dann gab’s eine ganze Ladung Abgänge und Neuzugänge, die noch nicht erwähnt wurden:

Abschusskandidaten. Auch die gibt es. Beim Hinzufügen von Blogs sehe ich immer, welche Blogs Fehler schmeissen. Einige davon sehen momentan nach permanenten Problemen aus. Die fliegen dann vermutlich demnächst irgendwann raus, falls es keine Änderung gibt…

  • blog.qolume.ch: Nameserver der Domain qolume.ch nicht erreichbar. Zitat aus #lugs: “Den qolume gibts eh nicht mehr.”
  • www.sunflyer.ch: Nameserver der Domain sunflyer.ch werden nicht gefunden, weder im DNS noch im Whois. Wusste gar nicht, dass sowas geht.

Problem ist einfach, dass man diese Leute ohne DNS auch schlecht kontaktieren kann oder auf deren Webseiten nach neuen URLs für Feeds suchen…

Sunday·23·March·2008

I finally ordered //at 05:13 //by abe

from the who-needs-fitness-centers dept.

After a three and a half week test drive during my last year’s summer holidays and much consideration about the configuration, I finally ordered a Brompton folding bike at Velofix.

Since the apple green was much nicer in the catalogue than in real life, I decided that I need a bike in colours that clearly mark it as my bike: Orange frame and black front and rear swinging fork. ;-)

It will have 6 gears (a 3-gear internal hub and a 2-gear dérailleur, both at the rear axle), a lowered transmission ratio for hilly Zurich and sprints in the city, a SON axle dynamo, Kevlar reinforced, reflecting tyres, and a bicycle luggage rack which also serves as kick stand when (partially) folded.

Options I thought about but then dismissed for miscellaneous reasons: Schlumpf MountainDrive (can’t say if will be really worthwile) and Rohloff Speedhub (not available although I already saw a Brompton with a red Speedhub — funnily just in front of the place I live, and probably also more expensive than I remembered).

First two weeks with the Brompton //at 05:12 //by abe

from the new-habits dept.

It’s here! In contrary to the estimated delivery time of about ten weeks, my Brompton arrived at Velofix at Saturday the 16th of February after only three weeks. The orange color is much nicer than the apple green I initially favourited from what I saw in the catalouge and the axle dynamo also proved to be a good idea, so I’m really happy about my choice.

I used the Brompton to go to work everyday the last two weeks, even when it’s snowing like today:

Snowy Brompton Snowy Brompton Folded Snowy Brompton

Although I’m starting slowly and taking the bus (hey, it’s a folding bike! :-) for the steepest parts (either from Am Börtli to Waidbadstrasse or Gsteigstrasse)… I even managed to fold the bike although I saw the bus already coming around the corner when I still was in the saddle. That was the day I was at work in less then 10 minutes — Perfect timing. :-)

Since the local Höngg bus (route 38) only makes it’s round every 30 minutes, with the bike I’m now much more flexible and don’t have to hurry in the morning to catch the bus. (OTOH I had to notice that “being more flexible” doesn’t mean “having more time”… :-)

I also use it on the campus for visits in other buildings. Although there are mostly stairs between the different levels of the campus, it’s no problem with the Brompton since it’s easy to carry, even if not folded. It’s much more comfortable than daduke’s little kickboard scooter whose hard wheels don’t feel healthy for bones and especially knees on ETH Hönggerberg’s paths made out of washed-out concrete. Air tyres and rear suspension are much better… :-)

Regarding the choice of gears: The MountainDrive would surely be helpful in hilly Zürich, especially since my fitness isn’t the best one at the moment, but 6 gears are ok, too, and will be even more ok as soon as my fitness gets better. The slower transmission wasn’t a bad choice either, although a wider transmission range would have been better.

Wednesday·19·March·2008

The days of my last running Woody are numbered… //at 21:29 //by abe

from the times-are-changing dept.

As many of the Planet Debian readers know, I bemoan Galeon 1.2 and therefore Woody. For a long time I haven’t found an appropriate browser replacement for Galeon 1.2 in Sarge, so I never switched my home workstation called “gsa” (Pentium II, 400 MHz, 572 MB RAM) to Sarge, since Woody was rockstable and just worked.

Though, after a few Galeon 1.3/2.0 rants, someone pointed me to Kazehakase, which indeed is a fine Galeon 1.2 replacement. But I noticed that Kazehakase in Sarge was in an early stage and the Kazehakase from testing (now Etch) were already much more matured.

So in comparison to Sarge with Etch I won’t have the problem of not having a mature and sage web browser in main. And due to security support for Woody ceased a few months ago and Etch is now declared stable, it’s time to reinstall my last Woody box with Etch.

For that, a repartioning of it’s two hard disks (8 GB and 40 GB) sounds like a good idea and so I had look, what’s on all those partitions where I once had a shot on quite a few Linux distributions and other unix-like operating systems. (Although I was already a big fan of Debian at that time, I wanted to look over my own nose and ordered a few CDs of free operating system at LinISO.de.)

So here’s what I found, never really used and will throw away quite soon:

That should give enough space for an Etch installation without touching the Woody installation first. Thanks to Venty, I’ve got a DVD drive for that box, so I can install from DVD.

And for toying around with all those other neat and free operating systems nowadays, I’ve got my MicroClient Jr. named “c2”.

Friday·14·March·2008

Axel’s Cruftiness Theorem //at 19:37 //by abe

from the my-systems-are-all-uncrufty dept.

Theorem: If aptitude is used, set to automatically remove unneeded packages and every not willingly installed package is marked auto, the system’s cruftiness is always 0.

Wednesday·05·March·2008

Is ikiwiki a Website Meta Language killer? //at 03:03 //by abe

from the there-was-nothing-better-—-until-now dept.

On this year’s Chemitzer Linux-Tage (CLT, engl. “Chemnitz Linux Days’) I attended a few talks of which especially formorer’s ikiwiki talk was very interesting.

I attended his talk since I found out that ikiwiki is command line wiki compiler in contrary to the thousands of solely web based wikis out there. As a big fan of statically generated content this idea sounded very interesting to me.

But just having a short look at ikiwiki’s web page didn’t help to get started and it seemed as if I had not the right idea of how ikiwiki works to get started. So formorer’s talk seemed to be a good possibility to get an idea of how ikiwiki works without much effort.

During the talk I noticed that ikiwiki can many things I do with the Website Meta Language (WML), but can do some more things WML can’t do out of the box:

  1. It’s not only a framework to generate web pages, it’s more like a content management system (CMS).
  2. Versioning is intergal part of ikiwiki without reinventing the wheel: It works out of the box with — beyond others — Subversion, Git and Mercurical (Hg).

And when formorer showed that even Tobi Oetiker uses ikiwiki, I noticed that ikiwiki probably could be a WML killer, since I knew Tobi as a WML fan. And ikiwiki looks very appealing for the WML fan inside me, too…

OTOH: Intergrating WML as a backend to ikiwiki could be an interesting idea, though.

Hearing what kind of input files ikiwiki can process, I also got the idea of using hnb (Hierachical Notebook) files as input for ikiwiki. hnb files are already XML and so a conversion to XHTML shouldn’t be that hard.

But when searching the web for “ikiwiki hnb” I found the blog postings of a few people switching away from hnb, e.g. to vimoutliner. Since I’m an Emacs addict and don’t like vim very much (if I use a vi, I use nvi or elvis), I searched for “emacs hnb” and indeed found someone who switched from hnb to org-mode – of which I never heard before. Unfortunately org-mode doesn’t seem to be in Debian (Update 00:23: Yeah, yeah, I now know it’s included in emacs22, but emacs22 hasn’t made it into kfreebsd-i386 yet, so I didn’t notice. See the comments. :-) but I’ll play around with it a little bit. Unfortunately a first test wasn’t that promising. But we’ll see.

Now playing: Men at Work — Down Under

Tuesday·04·March·2008

XTaran, übernehmen Sie //at 23:04 //by abe

Aus der Stöckchen Abteilung

Von Priska kam da grade ein Stöckchen geflogen und da ich grade am Mittagfuttern bin, solche Fragekataloge eh meist recht amüsant finde, kann ich da auch grade mal übernehmen. :-)

1. Greife das Buch, welches Dir am nächsten ist, schlage Seite 18 auf und zitiere Zeile 4:
Hmmm, schwierig. So direkt auf dem Büro-Schreibtisch liegt kein Buch mehr. Im Schubladencontainer liegt noch ein “Anwender-Handbuch Compaq LTE 386s/20 Personal Computer” für einen entsprechenden Laptop, den mein Chef mal bei mir entsorgt hat. Dient darin momentan noch primär als Briefbeschwerer, damit die Schublade zugeht. Ein Seite “1-18” gibt es nicht, also nehmen wir “2-18”. Zeile 4 ist eine Überschrift: “Anwendungsprogramme”. Die vierte Fließtextzeile lautet: “[Ein typisches Beispiel] für diesen Programmtyp ist eine Tabellenkalkulation (englisch: Spreadsheet). Mit einer [Tabellenkalkulation können z.B. …]”.
2. Strecke Deinen linken Arm so weit wie möglich aus. Was findest Du?
Meine Schreibtischlampe, das Telefon und den linken Brüllwürfel.
3. Was hast Du als letztes im Fernsehen gesehen?
Bei meinen Eltern in Schwarzenberg einen Biathlon bei der Winterolympiade. Und ja, ich habe ihn live gesehen. *grins*
4. Mit Ausnahme des Computers, was kannst Du gerade hören?
Meine Kollegen, wie sie grade über irgendwelche Modem-Konfigurationen diskutieren.
5. Wann hast Du den letzten Schritt nach draussen getan?
Als ich vor ca. einer Stunde zum Essen holen gefahren bin.
6. Was hast Du gerade getan, bevor Du diesen Fragebogen begonnen hast?
Mein Mittagessen angefangen.
7. Was hast Du gerade an?
Blaue Jeans, Wanderstiefel, ein weißes Orga-T-Shirt von einem Ententreffen der Einkorn Wildenten. Das übliche halt.
8. Hast Du letzte Nacht geträumt?
Nein, tief und fest geschlafen.
9. Wann hast Du zum letztenmal gelacht?
Als ich heute morgen verstanden habe, daß den Tippfehler in einer Symlink-Submission zuerst mal komplett falsch interpoliert hatte.
10. Was befindet sich an den Wänden des Raumes, in dem Du Dich gerade befindest?
In meinem Sichtbereich nix, weiter drüben hängt ein Conrad-Wandkalender.
11. Hast Du kürzlich etwas sonderbares gesehen?
Beim Essen holen im McDoof einen Kindergeburtstag, auf dem die Hälfte der Jungs eine mit Gel erstellte, irokesenähnliche, rote Frisur hatte.
12. Was hälst Du von diesem Quiz?
Hmmm, mal was anderes, da es sehr viel unvorhersehbares einfließen läßt.
13. Was war der letzte Film, den Du gesehen hast?
Montag abend: “V wie Vendetta”.
14. Was würdest Du kaufen, wenn Du plötzlich Multimillionär wärst?
Hmmm, schwierige Frage. Vermutlich noch ein paar alte Autos mehr und den Platz zum Abstellen derselbigen, einen Bauernhof mit großer Scheune und guter Netzanbindung zum Beispiel. ;-) Und dann wahrscheinlich noch irgendwelche politisch korrekten Sachen oder Mitgliedschaften.
15. Sag mir etwas über Dich, was ich noch nicht wusste.
Ich konnte nicht umhin, irgendwann Pringles-Dosen anfangen zu sammeln.
16. Wenn Du eine Sache auf der Welt ändern könntest, was wäre das?
Sämtliche Großmächte in lauter kleine, harmlose Staaten zerfallen lassen.
17. Tanzt Du gerne?
Im Allgemeinen nicht.
18. George Bush
Miserable Failure und Brezeln.
19. Stell Dir vor, Dein erstes Kind wäre ein Mädchen. Wie würdest Du es nennen?
Wahrscheinlich irgendeinen in Norddeutschland, Skandinavien oder der Schweiz typischen Vornamen. Den Namen einer guten Bekannten finde ich recht nett: Mömke — Allerdings haben den IIRC sich die Eltern selbst ausgedacht in Anlehnung an irgendeinen nordischen Jungennamen, den ich wieder vergessen habe. Halt bloß nix typisch Deutsches oder total Exotisches. (Einer der Mechaniker in meiner Lieblingwerkstatt heißt Tai mit Vornamen. Die Mutter ist Asien-Fan. Das wäre nach meinem Geschmack wieder etwas zu exotisch.)
20. Und einen Jungen?
Für den gilt das gleiche. Also keinen Jungen namens SuSI —äh— Susi.
21. Würdest Du es in Erwägung ziehen, auszuwandern?
Ich bin grade dabei. Naja, falls 30km hinter die Grenze ziehen als Auswandern gilt. ;-) Aber auch sonst: Ich war mal kurz davor, nach Oslo zu ziehen. Dänemark ist auch recht nett, Neuseeland ebenfalls reizvoll. Andererseits: Irgendwo hinzuziehen, wo ich niemanden kenn, keine Freunde habe, das wäre vermutlich nicht so mein Ding. (Und ja, selbst in Oslo hatte ich damals Freunde.)
22. Was würdest Du Gott sagen, wenn Du das Himmelstor erreichst?
“Oh, Dich gibt’s doch?”
23. Zwei Leute, die das hier auch beantworten sollen.
Dieter Schlabonski, nachdem er ja nun auch ein Blog hat *evilgrin* und, hmmm, Eric.

Achja, ich hab diesen Blog-Eintrag in Etappen geschrieben. Also nicht über den Zusammenhang zwischen Posting-Uhrzeit und daß ich grade zu Mittag futtere wundern. ;-)

Now playing: Eläkeläiset — Humpaton joulu

Following Bleeding Edge Software and still using Debian Stable //at 23:04 //by abe

from the opposites-attract dept.

Many Linux fans know that Debian Stable usually already lost the “b” when it’s being released. ;-) What seems not so well known (especially not by some DesktopBSD Marketing guy at last year’s LinuxDay.at :-) is that there is really a lot of people who really like this “stale” software collection — because it’s rock solid — especially compared to the ports in FreeBSD or DesktopBSD *evilgrin* which unnecessarily follow every new feature upstream introduces. This is really annoying in a server environment where you want as less changes as possible when updates are necessary due to security issues. My personal favourites here are Samba and CUPS. *grmpf*

Although I belong to those people who run Debian Stable even on brand-new hardware, I sometimes have to use the newest beta or alpha versions of some software to get it even only running. And doing so is fun but feels strange somehow, though. Currently I follow the pre-releases of three software makers quite close, due to a new laptop:

At the beginning of last semester I bought a brand-new Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2,2 GHz Intel Core2 Duo T7500, 4 GB RAM, 160 GB HD, 1440x900 14” Widescreen) without preinstalled operating system (possible thanks to the ETHZ Neptun Project) and installed — of course — 64-bit Debian Stable on it.

While the Debian Installer from Etch worked fine even on such new hardware, not all features worked out of the box because some components were just too new.

So the first thing I did was installing 2.6.22 from Backports.org, quickly moving farther to vanilla 2.6.23. Nearly everything I needed worked except the wireless network card. It needs the iwlwifi driver which is officially in the Linux kernel starting at the upcoming 2.6.24 (said to be released during the next few days). So I run 2.6.24 pre-releases on the laptop since the first release candidate, always eagerly waiting for either the next RC or the final release. (And 2.6.24 looks impressively stable to me — even since the early release candidates. :-)

I even got the fingerprint reader working for login and sudo (but not xscreensaver) using libthinkfinger backported to Etch from Debian Experimental. I’m just not sure if this is a good idea since the back of the screen already has enough of my fingerprints on it. ;-)

The next software of which I’m currently running an alpha version is 64-bit Opera 9.50 (aka Kestrel, available at snapshot.opera.com) because no earlier Opera version is available for 64-bit Linuxes. Here I had different experiences: The builds from October and November were already quite stable, but since December it crashes usually several times a day.

At work I also run the 64-bit Opera on my workstation, but stalled updating it when I noticed that it became so unstable. So my Opera at work has currently an uptime of nearly four weeks — and would have probably more if I hadn’t rebooted my workstation in Mid-December.

Somehow this hunting for new versions and eagerly waiting for every new (pre-)release makes me really fidgety sometimes. And my understanding for people doing this for there whole userland or even operating system has grown, but I still prefer to have stale but stable software on all my productive machines, even on my laptop — just with some few and handpicked excpetions.

The third but less thrilling thing I’m following are nVidia drivers for X. Since the free nv driver of X.org doesn’t support (and not only just doesn’t know) my graphics card yet and nouveau isn’t ready yet, I run the binary only and closed source driver from nVidia, waiting for that one release which supports Xen since I really would like to run a Xen guest with Debian Unstable for testing purposes and package building on my laptop. Until then I have to content myself with the much more unwieldy QEMU respectively KVM.

Anyway, I’m very happy with the T61 and Debian Stable and can easily connive at the few not (yet) perfect issues like missing Xen support by nVidia, broken ad-hoc mode in the wireless card, no internal card-reader (as announced in the Neptun specifications) and no native serial port.

Some useful links regarding the subject of this post:

Now playing: Jean Michel Jarre — Rendez-vous à Paris

Sunday·10·February·2008

WTF per minutes and yet another popular Blosxom-alike I didn’t know about //at 02:44 //by abe

from the muse-of-many dept.

Today while reading Planet Webtuesday, I stumbled upon a nice cartoon about the one and only measurement of code quality: WTF per minute.

Somehow I noticed that the blog in which this cartoon was posted in is powered by Blojsom, a Blosxom derivative written in Java (and nowadays database powered). I already have heard of a lot of blogging software which works similar to Blosxom and often is also named similar, e.g. Pyblosxom or Blosxonomy, but Blosjom hasn’t been noticed by yet although it is mentioned in Children of Blosxom where I first noticed Blosxonomy.

So far, so good, but what really surprised me is that a blog engine developed after Blosxom’s ideas officially made into MacOS X 10.4 Server. (BTW at a time, I neither had a blog nor knew about Blosxom. :-)

Saturday·02·February·2008

Warum machen Leute sowas? //at 21:33 //by abe

Aus der Morons!-I'm-surrounded-by-Morons! Abteilung

Da bekomme ich doch von jemandem, der auch hier auf Planet Symlink schreibt, eine ICQ-Message mit dem Inhalt “ich werde alle chat netze bis auf skype deaktivieren und in zukunft nur noch via skype erreichbar sein.”.

Wieso machen Leute sowas? Ich mein’, kein ICQ mehr zu nutzen, das ist sicher ein Schritt in die richtige Richtung — den würde ich auch gerne mal machen, wenn nicht soviele gute alte Freunde ICQ als einziges IM-Protokoll verwenden würden. (Von AOL-, MSN- und Yahoo!-Messengern bin ich zum Glück verschont geblieben. :-)

Es stößt bei mir aber auf massives Unverständnis, sich stattdessen als einziges auf das proprietäre Chat-System einer unseriösen Firma zu verlassen, deren Vorgängerfirma bereits bekannt dafür ist, Spyware, Adware und andere Malware mit ihren Produkten zu vertreiben, deren Code und Protokolle durchtränkt sind von Verschleierung und deren Lizenzbestimnmungen der Firma mehr oder weniger erlauben mit den Rechnern der OpferKunden alles zu machen, wozu sie grade Lust haben, insbesondere zur Installation zusätzlicher, nicht für Skype notwendiger Software Dritter:

Sie erkennen an und stimmen zu, dass Skype-Software in andere Software und sonstige Technologie, die im Besitz und der Kontrolle von Drittparteien steht, integriert sein oder diese integrieren kann. Jegliche derartige Drittparteisoftware oder -technologie, die in die Skype-Software integriert ist, unterliegt dem Gültigkeitsbereich dieses Vertrags.

Wie war das nochmal mit Kazaa, was war bei Kazaa mit dabei? Was haben die Kazaa-Lite-Macher entfernt und deswegen Ärger bekommen?

Soviel zum Benutzerstandpunkt und dem gesunden Menschenverstand. Wenn man als Netzwerkadministrator mal eine sog. Skype-Supernode (vgl. Salman A. Baset, Henning Schulzrinne: An Analysis of the Skype Peer-to-Peer Internet Telephony Protocol) im Netz hatte, dann ist das Unverständnis für die Benutzung eines solchen Dienstes noch viel größer.

Für die Verwendung von ICQ habe ich doch noch deutlich mehr Verständnis, dort ist (oder war?) vorallem ein Bestandteil der Nutzungslizenz unschön: ICQ Inc. hat das Copyright an allem, was im ICQ-Chat übertragen wird, zumindest war das Ende 2005 Stand der Dinge. Die Lizenzbestimmungen von ICQ wurden allerdings zuletzt im April 2006 geändert und der von Netzpolitik.org zitierte Abschnitt ist in dieser oder ähnlicher Formulierung nicht mehr in den Lizenzbestimmungen zu finden. Was nicht heißen muß, daß dessen Bedeutung nicht nachwievor irgendwo in den Lizenzbestimmungen verklausuliert drinsteht. Dem sollte man sich einfach bewußt sein, wenn man ICQ nutzt. .oO( Hmmm, heißt das, daß ich für o.g. Zitat nun Lizenzgebühren an ICQ Inc. zahlen muß? )

Nichtsdestotrotz gibt es eine freie und verschlüsselbare Alternativen zu Skype und ICQ, bei denen man auch nicht auf die Software und den Goodwill (hmmm, das klingt fast schon zynisch an dieser Stelle ;-) einer einzelnen Firma angewiesen ist: Jabber (XMPP) und IP-Telefonie mit SIP. Von weniger auf 1:1-Kommunikation ausgelegten Chat-Systemen wie IRC, SILC oder PSYC mal ganz abgesehen.

Und wenn dann mal mein geliebtes IRC-to-IM-Gateway Bitlbee auch mal das verschlüsselte OTR Messaging unterstützt, dann juckt mich auch obiger Abschnitt aus den ICQ-Lizenzbestimmungen nicht mehr so sehr.

Now playing: Hackerfunk

Monday·28·January·2008

Segmentation faulty tree //at 21:29 //by abe

from the made-my-day dept.

aptitude on Etch just gave me a funny error message:

1/0/0 root@c2:pts/2 21:14:24 [~] # aptitude upgrade 
Reading package lists... Done
Segmentation faulty tree... 87%
2/139/0 root@c2:pts/2 21:14:43 [~] # 

Ctrl-Ms can be nice sometimes…

Wednesday·23·January·2008

Why I’m happy that FreeWRT doesn’t need a web interface //at 15:41 //by abe

from the DIY dept.

When I have to read things like drive-by pharming (via Heise, Symlink article), I’m really happy that there are free 3rd party router firmwares out there, that don’t need any shitty web interface.

My ASUS WL-500g Premium runs FreeWRT and the only possibility to change the configuration is to login via ssh and edit the configuration files as root.

I really pity all those out there who have to cope with the partially really sleazy web interfaces home routers currently offer.

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert

About...

This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the IT Support Group (ISG) of the Departement of Physics at ETH Zurich.

Links to internal pages are orange, links to related pages are blue, links to external resources are green and links to Wikipedia articles, Internet Movie Database (IMDb) entries or similar resources are bordeaux. Times are CET respective CEST (which means GMT +0100 respective +0200).


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Just read

  • Bastian Sick: Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod (Teile 1-3)
  • Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Good Omens (borrowed from Ermel)

Currently Reading

  • Douglas R. Hofstadter: Gödel, Escher, Bach
  • Neil Gaiman: Keine Panik (borrowed from Ermel)

Yet to read

  • Neil Stephenson: Cryptonomicon (borrowed from Ermel)

Always a good snack

  • Wolfgang Stoffels: Lokomotivbau und Dampftechnik (borrowed from Ermel)
  • Beverly Cole: Trains — The Early Years (getty images)

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