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Saturday·12·December·2009

Offener Brief an die SBB: Tarifregelung Faltvelos //at 21:38 //by abe

Aus der Hirnrissige-Tarife-und-Paragraphenreiter Abteilung

Auf Anregung von @RailService ein offener Brief an die SBB zum Thema Velotransport als Handgepäck (abgesendet via SBB Kontaktformular):

Für normale, zerlegte Velos kann ich ja verstehen, dass eine Verpackung erwünscht ist, da es sich dann ja um Einzelteile (meist zwei Räder und der Rest) handelt.

Dass aber Faltvelos nur dann kostenlos sind, wenn sie verpackt sind, ist eine Zumutung, da sie dann meistens noch grösser, unhandlicher und – aufgrunddessen, dass die meisten Verpackungen inklusive der SBB TranZBag schwarz sind – auch noch leichter zu übersehen sind. Und auch ansonsten macht es weder für das SBB-Personal noch Reisende einen Unterschied, ob das Faltvelo verpackt ist oder nicht. Es ist ein Gepäckstück wie jedes andere, sowohl in der Grösse als auch im Gewicht.

Die SBB (und der ZVV am besten gleich auch noch) möge sich ein Vorbild an den Verkehrsunternehmen nehmen, die für Faltvelos eine nachvollziehbare, eindeutige, und wesentlich sinnvollere Tarifregelung haben, nämlich anhand der Reifengrösse: Faltvelos (gefaltet, aber ohne unsinnigen Verpackungszwang) bis 20” Reifengrösse werden als Handgepäck betrachtet, darüber hinaus als Velo.

Der ZVV hat momentan sogar noch wesentlich ungenauere Formulierungen in ihren Beförderungsbedingungen für Velos (Hervorhebung durch mich):

Kleinkindervelos und Kindertrottinetts werden gratis befördert. Übrige leicht tragbare Fahrgeräte, auch demontierte und verpackte Fahrräder, werden gratis befördert, wenn sie über oder unter dem Sitz der Benützerin oder des Benützers untergebracht werden können.
Gefaltetes Brompton

Früher waren – wenn ich mich recht entsinne – in dem hervorhobenen Teil Faltvelos sogar noch explizit erwähnt. Jetzt ist es Auslegungssache, was ein “leicht tragbares Fahrgerät” ist. Ich finde jedenfalls, das Brompton ist sehr leicht tragbar, ein Fahrgerät ist es allemal. Ein ZVV-Kontrolleur wollte das neulich jedoch nicht wissen (hat sich aber auch nicht auf eine Diskussion eingelassen und ist ausgestiegen).

Wednesday·18·November·2009

Spam in SMTP not via SMTP //at 18:53 //by abe

from the Spam-of-the-Day dept.

While examining the mail queue after a big mail server migration, I found the following reason for a bounce (hostnames replaced according to RFC2606):

550-5.1.1 - 
550-5.1.1 -
550-5.1.1 TO LEARN WHY YOUR EMAIL WAS REJECTED PLEASE GO HERE: 
550-5.1.1 - 
550-5.1.1 http://www.example.com/answers/dWtsb3R0b3NAdWtsb3R0ZXJ5LmNvLnVrPgA=AAA=/
550-5.1.1 - 
550-5.1.1 Cheap, Reliable Webhosting
550-5.1.1 http://www.example.com/a/hostgator/
550-5.1.1 -
550-5.1.1 Round-Trip Flights under $200 from Priceline!
550-5.1.1 http://www.example.com/a/pricelinertf/
550-5.1.1 -
550-5.1.1 Free Skype-to-Skype calls on your mobile
550-5.1.1 http://www.example.com/a/skype/
550-5.1.1 -
550 5.1.1 -

What’s next? Advertisements in HTTP headers? Oh, I forgot, they already exist and are called “referrer spam”.

Wednesday·04·November·2009

192.168.noone.org //at 10:48 //by abe

from the There-is-no-place-like-127.0.0.1 dept.

About a year ago, Eric Poscher invented the IP address blog and installed his one at http://192.168.epe.at/. Every hour his netbook notes down the IP address of the interface which currenntly the default route goes through and if it has an internet connection, it uploads the list of IP adresses it had. Additionally, he filters the list to IP addresses in 192.168.0.0/16.

June this year he published the source code behind his IP blog under GPL and Creative Commons. I modified his script slighty to just write down the new IP address if it’s different to the previous one, but without any filter. This makes the list much more colorful (and my online times less traceable :-) as you can see at http://192.168.noone.org/.

But the biggest disadvantage of Eric’s code design is not the fact that it’s a (quite nice to read :-) shell script but that it doesn’t save the list of IPs separately and is not able to regenerate everything if you want to change the design, but always just adds a line to the HTML page.

So I rewrote the whole thing in Perl last Saturday while sitting the dog of my parents. If you change the templates and call the script again, it regenerates the whole list with the new templates. The code is also under GPL, the HTML parts are under Creative Commons, too.

And hey, this is one of the very few (if not only) applications which are much more fun with IPv4 than with IPv6. ;-)

Monday·02·November·2009

Bath Tub, Rubber Keyboard, Ratpoison and Opera //at 18:24 //by abe

from the floating-keyboard-instead-of-floating-license dept.

I recently noticed that a very good way to safely read webcomics in the bath tub is an old laptop with a big screen (e.g. a IBM ThinkPad A-series like my 15” A31 which has a nice 1400×1050 resolution), a water proof keyboard, the screen-alike, keyboard only driven (hence the name) window manager ratpoison (other keyboard driven window managers like wmii or awesome probably will do as well as ratpoison) and a good keyboard driven web browser which can bind or by default has bound a key to follow <link rel="next" ... /> tags.

Like Opera. Opera has bound the space bar to scroll one page down and if you reach the bottom of the page to go to the next page as labeled in the link tag. Additionally the full screen mode is helpful, too.

Or the dream browser of all Emacs addicts, Conkeror, which has bound the function browser-follow-next to ]]. (Conkeror packages will hit Debian Experimental quite soon.)

Or the GNOME feed reader Liferea which has bound Ctrl-Space by default to scroll down the content by one page and if you reach the bottom of the content go to the next unread item.

With that equipment I can read my favourite web comics like Questionable Content (whose content seldomly is questionable :-) or Ozy and Millie (Think of a mixture of Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts and Kevin & Kell) in the bath tub without drying my hands before reading the next comic or fearing water or health damage by the combination of water and computer. I just press one or two keys on the keyboard floating over my lap and have a good time.

a keyboard floatiing in the bath tub close up of the floatiing keyboard

BTW: I’ve got a blue, non-branded one (packaging reveals it as “AirTouch Keyboard”, probably manufactured by SanChuan Electronics, China) with swiss-german layout from ARP Datacom (whose website offers no permanent links and insists on session cookies *puke*), but those from Keysonic or from ROCK seem to be very similar — nowadays they are also available in illuminated, miscellaneous colors and wireless, but only IP65, probably because of the necessarily accessible battery compartment.

But this kind of having fun still has optimisation potential: non-flexibel water-proof keyboard (IP67 recommended, so those IP66 keyboards and mice recently posted at UF LOTD are probably not tight enough), flat screen mounted above the bath tub, etc. ;-) Or maybe a completely water proof laptop if such thing exists — Does it?

One more note: In Debian Sid and Lenny recently a new tool called keynav has been added, which allows you to control the mouse quickly using the keyboard only. So with Sid or Lenny, I don’t even need an waterproof mouse or trackball if an application insists on mouse usage. ;-)

Can’t resist this meme //at 18:24 //by abe

from the easy-guess? dept.

Just stumbled over this meme at Adrian (the meme seems to be started by madduck involuntarily), and since I’m fascinated by how people choose hostnames since my early years at university, I can’t resist to add my two cents to this meme.

To be exact, I have two schemes, one for servers out there somewhere (Hetzner, xencon, etc.) and they’re all wordplays on their domain name noone.org, e.g. symlink.to.noone.org (short name “sym” :-), gateway.to.noone.org (usually an alias for one of the machines below), virtually.noone.org (always a virtual machine, initially UML, soon a Xen DomU), etc. So nothing for a quiz here.

My other scheme is for all my machines at home and my mobile machines. I’ll start this list with the not so obvious hostnames, so the earlier you guess the scheme, the better you are (or the better you know me ;-). One more hint in advance: “(*)” means this attribute or fact made me choose the name for the machine and therefore can be used as hint for the scheme. :-)

azam
My first PC at all, a 386 with 25 MHz and MS-DOS. (Got named retroactively(*). Hadn’t hostnames at that time.)
ak (pronounced as letters)
Got it from my brother after he didn’t need it anymore. It initially was identical to azam, but once was upgraded to a 486. Still have the 386 board, though.
azka
My first self-bought computer, a pure SCSI system with a AMD K5-PR133 and 32 MB RAM. Initially had SuSE 4.4 and Windows 95 on. Still my last machine which had a Windows installed! :-)
m35
Same case and same speed as azka. Used it for experimenting(*) with Sid years ago.
azu
Initially also an AMD K5-PR133, later replaced by a Pentium 90 and used as DSL router.
azl
An HP Vectra 386/25N book size mini desktop I saved from the scrapyard at Y_Plentyn before his (first) move to Munich. The cutest(*) 386 I ever saw.
ayce
A 386 with 387 co-processor(*) and solded 8 MB of RAM.
ayca
A 1992 Toshiba T6400C 486 laptop bought at VCFe 5.0.
bijou
My 1996 ThinkPad 760ED, which is still working and running Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 Lenny (I started with Debian 3.0 Woody on it and always dist-upgraded it! :-)
gsa (pronounced as letters)
My long-time desktop after azka. A Pentium II with 400 MHz and 578 MB of RAM at the end. Bought used at LinuxTag 2003, it worked until end of last year when it started to suddenly switch off more and more often and now refuses to boot at all. Hasn’t been replaced yet though. I mostly use my laptops at home since then.
gsx (pronounced as letters)
An AMD K6 with 500 MHz I got from maol and which was used as Symlink test server more than once. (It was the machine initially named symlink.to.noone.org because of that.)
hy
My 32 bit Sparc, a Hamilton Hamstation.
hz (pronounced as letters)
My 64 bit Sparc, an UltraSparc 5.
tub
An HP Apollo 9000 Series 400, model 400t from 1990.
tpv (pronounced as letters, too ;-)
My Zaurus SL-5500G.
tryane
A Unisys Acquanta CP mini desktop with a passively cooled(*) 200 MHz Pemtium MMX. Used as DSL router for while, but the power supply fan was too noisy.
lna (pronounced as letters)
A 233 MHz Alpha
loadrunner
An IBM ThinkPad A31 running Sid. I use it as beside terminal.
pony
A Compaq LTE5100 laptop with a Pentium 90 running Sid.
dagonet
A Sony Vaio laptop which ran Debian GNU/kFreeBSD until it broke.

Those who know me quite good should already have guessed the scheme, even if they can’t assign all the names. For all others, here’s one name which doesn’t exactly fit into the scheme, but still is related in someway, but you need to knowledge of the theme’s subject to know the relation:

colani
A big tower from the early 90s designed by Colani.

Ok, and now the more obvious hostnames:

rosalie
A very compact Toshiba T1000LE 8086 laptop running ELKS and FreeDOS.
amisuper
Also an old Symlink test server from maol. He named it “dual”. 2x(*) Pentium I with 166 MHz. Unfortunately doesn’t boot anymore.
visa
An IBM NetVista workstation running Debian GNU/kFreeBSD. My current IRC host.
nemo
My ASUS EeePC running Debian 5.0 Lenny.
pluriel
My current WLAN router running FreeWRT.
c1
My MicroClient JrSX, an embedded 486SX compatible machine with 300 Mhz for VESA mountings.
c2
My MicroClient Jr, an embedded Pentium MMX compatible machine with 200 Mhz for VESA mountings.
c-crosser
My Lenovo ThinkPad T61 running Debian 5.0 Lenny.
c-cactus and c-metisse
The KVM based virtual(*) machines on c-crosser running Sid and Debian GNU/kFreeBSD.
jumper
My NAS(*) at home, currently a TheCus N4100. Soon to be replaced by some Mini-ITX box.

Any one who hasn’t guessed the scheme yet? For those understanding German it’s explained at the end of my old hardware page. For all others I suggest either to look at the domain name in my e-mail address (no, it’s usually not noone.org).

Still not clear? Well, feel free to ask me for all the gory details or mark the following white box to see the scheme as well as the explanations for nearly all hostnames hidden in there:

All the machines are named after Citroëns. Old machines after old Citroëns, current hardware after current Citroën models or prototypes.

Those names starting with “A” are 2CV derivatives since the 2CV was Citroëns “A” model. “AZ” was the 2CV, AZU and AK were 2CV vans and everything starting with AY (e.g. AYA, AYA2, AYB – but those don’t sound that nice ;-) is Dyane based, but I currently only use Méhara names (AYCA is the normal Méhari, AYCE the 4x4 version). Interestingly not everything starting with AYC is a Méhari: AYCD was the Acadiane, the Dyane van.

HY and HZ are variants of Citroëns “H van” (HX, HW and H1600 as well, but they don’t sound that nice), TUB was the pre-WWII “H van” prototype and later the nickname of the “H van” in France.

TPV was the name of the pre-WWII 2CV prototype and an abbreviation for Toute Petite Voiture (French for “Very Small Car”), hence the Zaurus, my smallest Linux box, got that name. Rosalie was the nickname of a rear-wheel drive pre-WWII Citroën.

M35 was a Wankel engine prototype of the Ami 8 and the Ami Super was the 4 cylinder version of the Ami 8. Bijou was a 2CV based coupé build by Citroën UK in the late 50s and early 60s.

Visa and LNA were 2CV predecessors which were available with 2CV engines, but were stopped before the 2CV. GSA and GSX are GS late derivatives.

C1, C2, (C3) Pluriel, C-Crosser, Jumper and Nemo are current Citroën models and C-Cactus and C-Métisse are recent Citroën prototypes and show cars.

The 2CV Dagonet was an aerodynamically optimised 2CVs by Jean Dagonet in the 50s. The Tryane is an aerodynamic and fuel efficient, three wheeled car by Friend Wood based on the 2CV and with a body of wood. And Colani once dressed a 2CV so that it broke several efficiency world records.

The Namco Pony was a 2CV based light utility truck (similar to the Méhari, but with steel body) built in Greece under license in many variants.

And Loadrunner is the name of some CX six-wheeler conversions.

Some links about the naming items:

Hope you had fun. I had. ;-)

Now playing: Willi Astor — Gwand Anham Ära

Mini-ITX based Home Server: Planning and Hardware //at 18:24 //by abe

from the availability-and-power-consumption dept.

Ever since my former desktop machine gsa died and I started using only laptops at home, I noticed a need for a home server for storing all my MP3s, holiday pictures, games, and backups of my other machines. And I also want a filtering web proxy at home again.

Current situation

Currently my Norhtec MicroClient Jr. “c2” with it’s 120 GB 2.5" harddisk does some of these jobs (mostly storage and backup), but it neither has the disk space nor the performance to do all the things I want.

For storage I once bought a TheCus N4100, the big brother of the popular and officially Debian supported N2100. Unfortunately there are a few things different than in the N2100 (NIC without MAC) which makes it much more difficult to get Debian on it and the original firmware doesn’t support NFS at all. *grmpf* I had hints from others who managed to get Debian on this NAS, but I didn’t find the time and leisure to really dig into cross-compiling kernels. (Although with the new 1.3.06 firmware, so called modules became possible also for the N4100 and a SSH module has been posted with which a Debian chroot could be installed and the required kernel build on the machine itself.)

I though wasn’t very angry when the N4100+ came out shortly after I bought the N4100, because the N4100+ was no more an ARM based device but had a Celeron processor inside instead. And a NAS which is built on average PC hardware wasn’t as appealing as some device based on some more exotic architecture mainly used in embedded devices. :-)

The Mini-ITX Appeal

This view changed rapidly, when Raffzahn showed me a few Mini-ITX boards and cases. I surfed around on Mini-ITX.com store and stumbled upon the NAS-like ES34069 case from Chenbro featuring four S-ATA hotswap 3.5" slots, a slim-line CD-ROM drive slot, a SD card reader, and enough space for an additional 2.5" hard disk and a low profile Mini-ITX board.

Additionally, the VIA EPIA SN series of Mini-ITX boards sports 4 S-ATA ports and either a passively cooled 1 GHz C7 processor or an actively cooled 1.8 GHz C7 processor. That should be enough power for a small multi-purpose home server while still keep the power consumption low. And I’m not the only one having this idea, Mini-ITX.com suggests this combination and Chenbro officially supports the VIA EPIA SN boards.

Additionally, Debian 5.0 Lenny seems to run fine on the SN series, only lm-sensors seems to have problems with SN18000G and SN10000EG (but not SN18000 and SN10000E).

So when the Chenbro ES34069 case showed up in digitec’s online shop, I ordered one there and a VIA EPIA SN18000G board at Brack. I didn’t order any disks since for data storage I plan to use the four Samsung 400 GB 3.5" S-ATA disks I bought for the N4100, and for the system I plant to use the 2.5" disk I initially bought for my MicroClient JrSX “c1”, but then continued to use it only with the CF card. Not yet sure, if I’ll also equip the slim-line optical drive slot, too.

The case took several weeks to deliver and the mainboard hasn’t arrived yet. Instead I got an e-mail from Brack that VIA products are currently very difficult to get in Switzerland. Reason is said to be that VIA tries to channel the distribution of their products to a single distributor. (Sounds somehow similar to what Apple tried with the iPhone and failed.)

Mini-ITX boards and power consumption

So I now have a nice case without a board. There aren’t that many Mini-ITX boards out there sporting 4 S-ATA ports. One which cleary stood out was the new Intel DG45FC Mini-ITX board with LGA775 socket. (In Switzerland neither available at Brack nor at digitec, but e.g. at PCP.) But reading the specs of this board it was also clear that it wasn’t thought for NAS systems but high-performance HTPCs — the focus seems to be on multimedia performance which a NAS doesn’t need.

Its newer sister, the Intel DQ45EK Mini-ITX board is focussed more on office and business PCs than on multimedia. But Intels remote adminstration is not really a plus for me (don’t need it, I’ve got SSH ;-) and it’s neither cheaper than the DG45FC nor does it have significantly lower power-consuption.

Despite the 120W power-supply there are people who already combined the Chenbro ES34069 with the Intel DG45FC or DQ45EK board, e.g. one of the administrators of the German NAS-Portal forums built such a machine and this German guy who wants to build a Windows Home Server based on such a combination. At least the NAS-Portal administrator found out that the board consumes so much power that together with the 4 S-ATA disks the included 120W power supply doesn’t suffice and the system is not stable in this configuration. Trusted Reviews review of the DG45FC explains why: It’s one of the first Mini-ITX board not following the MoDT idea, has a desktop chipset instead a mobile chipset and therefore hasn’t all of the power-saving features of those mobile chipsets.

But it’s easy to see anyway: Most of the CPUs supported by the DG45FC and DQ45EK boards have a TDP of 65W. Offically the processor cooler delivered with the case supports processors with up to 65W, but 65W is already more than the half of what the power supply delivers and according to the Trusted Reviews review, the board itself consumes another 35W itself. So for the four 3.5" S-ATA disks — which are usually not as economical as notebook disks — about 20W are left. This can’t work! The guy from NAS-Portal.org plans to solve the problem by using a universal 180W notebook power supply instead of the original one.

In comparison to the 100W of the both Intel boards, VIA’s SN18000G consumes only 26W (the fanless SN10000EG even only 22W) and that’s board and processor! That’s about ¼ of what the Intel board consumes. Imagine the difference between having a 100W light bulb (suffices for a whole small room) shining 365 days a year compared to a 25W light bulb (often used in bedside lamps) in a year.

Other Mini-ITX mainboards with 4x S-ATA include the following ones:

Conclusion

For now, I decided to wait a little bit more for my VIA EPIA SN18000G board which still seems to be the best board for the Chenbro ES34069 case although not really cheap. But if I once in a not that distant future decide to have a desktop at home again, I’m quite sure it’ll sport a cute Mini-ITX case (perhaps a nice black-orange HFX micro M1 case by mCubed — unfortunately the M2 is no more available in a color combination including orange ;-) with an Intel DG45FC or Kontron 986LCD-M/mITX and a decent Core 2 Duo processor.

Software Plans

Of course my home server will run Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 Lenny on it, with software RAID-5 and LVM2 over the 1.6 TB of S-ATA disks resulting in 1.2 TB available disk space which will be offered using at least NFS, SMB and SSH (think sshfs). Planned software includes BackupPC (a very fine pulling backup system for machines which are not online 24/7) and Privoxy. I’ll perhaps also install Tor and a caching proxy like Squid or Polipo. Another idea is to run Mediatomb on that machine. :-)

NSLU2 in a Tux Case //at 18:23 //by abe

from the embedded-in-a-tux dept.

It started harmless when Thomas asked on Linux User Group Switzerland mailing list if someone knows a tux-shaped alarm clock. But the topic of that thread quickly moved to two other things in tux shape: the Tux Droid, a device similar to the Nabaztag, but needs a Linux host with USB, and ACME SystemsTux-Server, a ETRAX CRIS based Foxboard inside a tux-shaped case.

We found out that Telion, the Swiss importer for Foxboards, also imports ACME Systems’ Tux Case — although the Tux Case is not mentioned on their website. Even better: They had a few old Tux Cases in stock which don’t fit anymore on current Foxboards since the position of the power socket changed. (So only one hole in the case was missing.) And they wanted to get rid of them quite fast: They offered us the Tux Cases for 10 CHF (6€) each instead of 28 CHF each (17€) if we buy all of them. Of course we couldn’t reject this offer and bought all five remaining cases.

Another part of the thread was about performance. Although ETRAX CRIS is used by its inventor AXIS in many of its products (they’re famous for the Linux based web-cams) many were not sure if the board’s performance would be sufficient for their ideas. Another disadvantage of the ETRAX CRIS architecture is that no mainstream Linux distribution supports it.

Another point was the Foxboard’s price (169€, ca. 268 CHF). Bones just mentioned that an NSLU2 costs only about 100 CHF (60€).

Probably on IRC someone (probably Bones, too) wondered if it’s possible to fit a NSLU2 into such a quite inexpensive Tux Case. We took Wikipedia’s picture of the NSLU2 board, compared the size of the USB ports on that picture, compared them with real-life USB ports and found out the size of the board that way. And when I got my Tux-Case I noticed that the NSLU2 board really could fit into the Tux-Case.

Since I’m already building a bigger NAS-like home server, I have no use for another, much slower NAS. But since I more or less gave up the also ARM-based Thecus N4100, another ARM-based machine in my hardware collection wouldn’t be bad.

So it didn’t took long and the idea was born to build the NSLU2 board into a Tux-Case and let the website tux.ethz.ch run on it. (I inherited its administration from Beat and it’s currently just a virtual host on one of our webservers.) Then it would be a server named Tux, serving Tuxes, looking like a Tux and running Tux’ operating system Linux. :-)

I ordered an NSLU2 at Brack for 117.60 CHF (ca. 70€). Played around with the original firmware for a moment, but it’s horrible from a security point of view: You can’t even change the admin password (default: “admin”) if no USB harddisk is attached. And no, a USB stick doesn’t suffice. So I didn’t wait long and tried to install Debian’s “armel” (ARM, Little Endian) port on it. But the NSLU2 refused the “new firmware” with the error message “Upgrade: no enough free space.”. While this is not in the Debian specific NSLU2 FAQ, it is mentioned in the general troubleshooting FAQ. As described in there, first upgrading to the most recent firmware version and then uploading the Debian installer worked fine.

After I had successfully installed Debian Lenny on a pqi 4 GB USB sticked into the NSLU2 and verified that everything is working fine, I opened the NSLU2 case and checked if it really would fit into a Tux Case.

It does, but very, very close. You’ll have to drill some holes and the ethernet socket will stick out Tux’s shoulder, but everything else should fit perfectly after a few mounting parts inside the Tux Case have been removed. As a proof of concept I laid the NSLU2 board on the Tux Case’s back:

Pictures taken with my Nokia E51

So later the LEDs will be in Tux’ one shoulder while the network socket will be in his other shoulder. And the USB stick will be inside his paunch via a USB hub.

water-proof mice //at 18:23 //by abe

from the *want* dept.

When I blogged about water-proof keyboards a few months ago I did not really expect that there will be water-proof mice (no IP classification though) so soon, too. (Found in an advertisment in the current issue of the German c’t magazine.)

But the idea of water-proof mice in general doesn’t seem to be as new as I initially expected, at least the web design of http://www.waterproofmouse.co.uk/ is very nineties. ;-)

RuggedTech even has washable, wireless, IP66 (protected against powerful water jets) mice with a scroll-wheel and completely silicone sealed IP68 mice (protected against immersion beyond 1m).

Mini-ITX based Home Server: Hardware Review //at 18:23 //by abe

from the the-waiting-has-an-end dept.

Mostly for my backups needs, I planned a Mini-ITX based home server around the Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX case which features four hot-swap S-ATA bays. I wanted a low-consumption motherboard and CPU in there (not only because of the default 120W power supply) and since low-consumption mainboards with 4 S-ATA connectors are quite seldom I’ve chosen the not so cheap VIA EPIA SN18000G mainboard with actively cooled 1.8 GHz VIA C7 processor and a maximum power consumption of less than 30W (including CPU).

Waiting for delivery

While the Chenbro ES34069 case I ordered at digitec “only” needed a few weeks to deliver, the VIA EPIA SN18000G mainboard from Brack took over eleven weeks to deliver, it finally has been delivered on Wednesday, 5th of November 2008.

I initially ordered the VIA board for CHF 324, now it’s at CHF 397 (without rebate even at CHF 439) because Brack seems to have had a lot of hassles to get some of them at all. Although they usually sell for the prices at the time they ship the hardware (market price), they sold it to me at their purchase price, so it became only about CHF 15 more expensive than when I ordered. And since the RAM price dropped by one third during those eleven weeks, the whole order became about CHF 25 cheaper, the order was CHF 10 cheaper overall than when ordered. :-) (Still waiting for the according voucher, though.)

So I’ve joined the two main components together, installed Debian Lenny on it, crammed four 400 GB Samsung S-ATA disks (formerly in a TheCus N4100) and the 160 GB 2.5” harddisk from my MicroClient JrSX (I never really used it in there, it always runs from CF card) into it, created a software RAID-5 and now fill it with music, games and backups.

But not everything was as easy as it sounds above. Although Chenbro lists the VIA EPIA SN18000G as officially compatible mainboard for the ES34069, not everything really fitted as expected. So here’s my review of this hardware combination.

Chenbro ES34069

It’s really awesome how much features you can stuff in such a small case. Of course it’s not as small as a thin client case or the mCubed HFX micro case, but it’s smaller than most book-size cases like the ASUS Pundits, just a little bit thicker.

Inside the case (laying on its left side) there are two decks. The lower deck contains the 3.5” hot-swappable S-ATA harddisk bays, the internal part of the power supply and the two fans for cooling the interal power supply components and the disks. The upper deck has space for the mainboard, a 2.5” harddisk, a slim-line optical drive slot and all the front-panel stuff (card reader, LEDs, USB sockets).

Both decks are divided in two section. The front section belongs to the case itself and the back section containing the mainboard mount points and the two fans can be easily unplugged after removing four screws and keeping an eye on the cables from the lower to the upper deck. That way the mainboard can be mounted very easily. So far a very convincing design.

To mount the 2.5 harddisk in between the mainboard and the front panel, it’s not really necessary, but convenient to remove the slim-line optical drive slot, since you then have better access to the harddisk’s IDE socket. To remove the slot, you need to remove the front cover. That sounded easier than it actually was and I nearly broke of one its catches. :-/

Although all parts of the case seems to fitting very well together, the bays for the hot-swappable drives weren’t perfect: The drive slots not always connected even if the latch iss already closed. This was definitely better with the TheCus N4100. Additionally the bays seem to be made for slightly larger disks, so mine had play and the screws pressed the it together and you need to take care that the screws don’t cant.

A big positive point of the case was that there were all necessary screws included and they were fitting. This was a bigger problem with the TheCus N4100, since many harddisks ship with their own screws, but those are seldom the needed flat-head ones.

Even a P-ATA to slim-line optical drive adapter was included, so I don’t need to buy one. (Would have costed CHF 42 at digitec.)

VIA EPIA SN18000G

While it’s surely not the most performant board out there, I’m quite satisfied with its performance. I installed BackupPC 3.1.0 as backup system on it and it works like a charm. It daily backs up up to 14 machines over ssh tunnels – more to come) and is way more performant than expected. But I probably had very low expectations due to everyone arguing about the bad performance of the VIA C7. ;-)

Not nice, but known is the problem that most (but not all) USB connectors on the SN mainboard have 2.00mm pitch while all the case’s plugs have 2.54mm pitch. Apropriate adaptors are available from Mini-ITX.com. Thanks to Akim for this tip!

Power consumption

I hoped to get more details into this posting, e.g. measured power consumption, etc. But then I recently read in the c’t magazine how inexact my watt meter (from Brennenstuhl) is, so its values would probably bring more confusion than help. Additionally I don’t feel like powering down the server just for measurement.

Feedback

I got quite a few mails with hints to further Mini-ITX boards and TDP but also with questions about the case. I hope that this blog post asnwers some of the questions also for other readers. Thanks to all who replied to my initial blog post about my Chenbro/VIA based home server, either by mail, or comment, or both. :-)

Further plans

For deploying music to my other computers I tried both, mediatomb and gmediaserver but none really convinced me. Currently I just mount the media directory using the FUSE and ssh based sshfs. Not sure if I’ll add NFS due to it’s user base syncing hell.

Further plans are an HTTP proxy with ad filtering and caching capabilities, it’ll be Privoxy combined with either Squid or Polipo. Maybe even a Tor SOCKS proxy.

Sunday·01·November·2009

/var/cache/apt/ on tmpfs //at 16:44 //by abe

from the fine-tuning dept.

My ASUS EeePC 701 (4G) “nemo” running Debian Sid has a 4 GB SSD as main disk, which is on the one hand quite full (mostly with software I use, but also local working copies of software I work on) and on the other hand an SSD, so I always try to reduce the amount of write to disk without losing convenience. Similar issues have systems which run off a CF or SD card or maybe even an USB stick.

Since I ordered a 2 GB RAM bar together with the EeePC, I not bound to the 512 MB which it had originally. But on the other hand I seldom needed more than 1 GB of RAM. Usually I needed between 400 MB and 1 GB of RAM. So it’s quite obvious to use tmpfs on as many places as possible.

Making /tmp, /var/run and /var/lock tmpfs were the most obvious directories to mount as tmpfs. Especially /var/run on tmpfs brought up a few bugs a while ago (mostly init.d scripts relying on /var/run/$PACKAGENAME/’s existence), but it’s no hassles to use nowadays. Even in Debian Stable such bugs got fixed.

Next target to explore for was /var/cache. According to the FHS, /var/cache is intended for cached data from applications. […] The application must be able to regenerate or restore the data. So it should be safe to put anything under /var/cache on tmpfs.

One directory in there which gets written quite often and with a lot of data on Debian Unstable is /var/cache/apt and its subdirectories, especially /var/cache/apt/archives. If you update your Sid installation daily, all new or updated .debs will be downloaded to /var/cache/apt first.

So I put /var/cache/apt on tmpfs by putting the following line into /etc/fstab:

tmpfs /var/cache/apt tmpfs defaults,noexec,nosuid,nodev,mode=0755 0 0

But despite FHS stating that anything under /var/cache must be reproducible by the application, apt is puking and refusing to work:

!447 Z31 ?0 L1 root@nemo:pts/0 (-zsh) 16:13:10 [~] # apt-get update
E: Archive directory /var/cache/apt/archives/partial is missing.
!448 Z32 ?100 L1 root@nemo:pts/0 (-zsh) 16:13:17 [~] # 

If you create /var/cache/apt/archives/partial, it will also argue about /var/cache/apt/partial.

Of course the workaround is simple: Just put mkdir -p /var/cache/apt/partial /var/cache/apt/archives/partial in /etc/rc.local.

But nevertheless, this is a bug in apt – which already has been reported by madduck earlier this year (#523920). Unfortunately the APT maintainers have not yet even commented on this FHS violation and therefore also a Debian Policy (Section 9.1.1) violation.

One more thought about /var/cache/apt vs only /var/cache/apt/archives: apt-file also caches its data under /var/cache/apt. So if you want to use apt-file after a reboot and have /var/cache/apt mounted as tmpfs, you have to run apt-file update first and it will download all Contents files (can be dozens of megabytes) and not only the differences to previously downloaded Contents files.

So if you use apt-file a lot, you probably go better with making only /var/cache/apt/archives tmpfs and not whole /var/cache/apt.

Sunday·26·April·2009

Screen and Emacsclient: Automatically switching to the Emacs window //at 10:38 //by abe

from the desktop-comfort-in-text-mode dept.

For a very long time, I use mutt with emacsclient as configured editor and a single GNU Emacs instance started from either .screenrc or .Xsession, depending on the system. And I’m very used to switching the virtual desktop or the screen window after starting a mail in mutt.

Since Debian 5.0 Lenny and Emacs 22, Emacs automatically grabs the focus and switches to the right virtual desktop. So after telling mutt recipient and subject of a new e-mail, it invokes emacsclient and immediately the focus has moved to the running Emacs instance. Because I was used to switch one virtual desktop to the right at that point, I often found my self two desktops to the right until I got used to it. :-)

I usually hate applications which grab the focus without being asked. But in this case I basically asked for it. And there’s no delay like with starting up an application which has to read in some database first – think of Liferea or Rhythmbox which take many seconds to minutes to start up, even on my 2.2 GHz dual core ThinkPad.

In the meantime I got so used to that automatic desktop switch that I forget to switch the screen window in the second scenario where I use this combination: My screen doesn’t automatically switch to the Emacs window (window 1) after I told mutt recepient and subject in window 2.

Knowing that screen is quite scriptable, I found out that only a very small change is needed to my mutt configuration to get that desktop feature to my everyday screen session. I simply replaced the editor setting in my .muttrc with the following line:

set editor="screen -X select 1;emacsclient"

Now mutt tells screen to switch to window 1 (where Emacs is running) and then tells Emacs to open the appropriate file to edit my new mail.

Update Friday, 2009-04-24, 18:22

Even though Zack surely is right with his comment about the multi-terminal feature of the upcoming GNU Emacs 23, I still have Etch (and therefore GNU Emacs 21) on the server where I have my screen session.

So the next step was to switch back to the mutt window (window 2) after I’m finished with editing the mail. Since mutt gives the the file to edit as argument to the contents of $editor, simply adding ;screen -X select 2 at the end of $editor doesn’t suffice.

So I wrote a small shell script (named ~/.mutt/editor.sh) as wrapper which calls all the commands and passes the parameters to the right command:

#!/bin/sh

screen -X select 1
emacsclient -a ~/.mutt/alteditor.sh "$@"
screen -X select 2

Of course, $editor is now set to that script:

set editor="/home/abe/.mutt/editor.sh"

Emacsclient of GNU Emacs 21 already supports the -a option to call another editor in case of not being able to connect to a running Emacs instance. Since I don’t want to switch to another screen window in that case, I wrote a second shell script (named ~/.mutt/alteditor.sh) which switches back to the mutt window and then calls GNU Zile, my preferred low-end emacs clone:

#!/bin/sh

screen -X select 2
zile "$@"
screen -X select 1

I love it!

Wednesday·15·April·2009

Useless Statistics, the 2nd //at 19:35 //by abe

from the surprises dept.

Myon recently posted a nice statistic about popular single letter package name prefixes. Just out of curiosity I started wondering about popular single letter package name suffixes:

On a machine with Debian oldstable, stable, testing, unstable and experimental in its sources.list, I ran the following command:

$ apt-cache search -n . | \
    awk '{print $1}' | \
    sed -e 's/.$//' | \
    sort | \
    uniq -c | \
    sort -n

And to my surprise there is a non-obvious winner:

$ apt-cache search -n '^gp.$'
gpa - GNU Privacy Assistant
gpc - The GNU Pascal compiler
gpe - The G Palmtop Environment (GPE) metapackage
gpm - General Purpose Mouse interface
gpp - a general-purpose preprocessor with customizable syntax
gpr - GUI for lpr: print files and configure printer-specific options
gps - Graphical Process Statistics using GTK+
gpt - G-Portugol is a portuguese structured programming language
gpw - Trigraph Password Generator

But since I searched through the binary packages many other hits are more obvious, like the seven packages hbf-cns40-1 to hbf-cns40-7:

      [...]
      4 ar
      4 aspell-f
      4 automake1.
      4 cpp-4.
      4 e
      4 g++-4.
      4 gappletviewer-4.
      4 gcc-4.
      4 gcj-4.
      4 gcompris-sound-e
      4 gfortran-4.
      4 gij-4.
      4 go
      4 gobjc-4.
      4 gobjc++-4.
      4 h
      4 iceweasel-l10n-e
      4 iceweasel-l10n-k
      4 kde-i18n-f
      4 kde-i18n-h
      4 kde-l10n-e
      4 kde-l10n-s
      4 kile-i18n-e
      4 koffice-i18n-e
      4 koffice-i18n-s
      4 koffice-l10n-e
      4 koffice-l10n-f
      4 libqbanking
      4 myspell-f
      4 myspell-h
      4 openoffice.org-help-e
      4 openoffice.org-l10n-b
      4 openoffice.org-l10n-h
      4 openoffice.org-l10n-k
      4 sd
      4 tcl8.
      4 tk8.
      5 aspell-e
      5 aspell-h
      5 iceweasel-l10n-s
      5 kde-i18n-b
      5 kde-i18n-e
      5 kde-i18n-t
      5 kde-l10n-k
      5 openoffice.org-l10n-e
      5 openoffice.org-l10n-t
      5 pa
      5 tc
      6 gc
      6 kde-i18n-s
      6 libdb4.
      6 m
      6 openoffice.org-l10n-n
      6 openoffice.org-l10n-s
      6 s
      7 hbf-cns40-
      9 gp

But there are also some other interesting observations to make:

  • OpenOffice.org seems to have by far the biggest number of localisations, with KDE being 2nd.
  • There are 6 version of the Berkeley DB in Debian: libdb4.2 to libdb4.7 (including oldstable as mentioned above)

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to find the full names of the other package names starting with s, m, gc, pa or tc and having just one additional character. ;-)

Sunday·08·March·2009

Sedating irssi’s nick highlight for microblogging messages //at 17:13 //by abe

from the *beep* dept.

My favourite IRC client is irssi. I like it so much that I even use it for all my instant messaging needs. The gateway of choice between irssi and mostly Jabber is Bitlbee.

I also microblog on identi.ca, a free (free as in AGPL) microblogging service based on laconi.ca. In comparsion to the non-free and proprietary Twitter microblogging, identi.ca has all the features which Twitter turned off already again.

For me the most important feature of Twitter was tweeting via XMPP (aka Jabber). Since Twitter turned off that feature, Twitter increasingly fast became unimportant for me. Identi.ca still has this feature and cultivates it further. So usually don’t visit the identi.ca website that often anymore but get the microblogging stream of my friends via XMPP and Bitlbee directly into my irssi.

Although this is very convenient, it has one big disadvantage: In comparison to an IRC channel, not only notices directed to me personally but every incoming notice beeps, because Bitlbee sends them either as /MSG or prepends my nick name. For normal IRC communication /MSG should beep, and you can’t make exceptions for that so easily in irssi.

I asked on #bitlbee (OFTC) and on #irssi (IRCNet). On #irssi funnily the first answer was “I tried that yesterday, no success” from Shrike. — So I’m not alone, although Shrike uses Jaiku and not identi.ca. Then I had the idea to get Bitlbee to not prepend my nick name for all those identi.ca notices which go into the &bitlbee channel — but I didn’t find a way to configure this in Bitlbee. But Shrike found a way to do this with already existing irssi plugins:

The trigger.pl plugin (available e.g. in Debian’s irssi-scripts package or on scripts.irssi.org) can add triggers which replace parts of the message. So the following three lines helped me to reduce the noise microblogging causes in my irssi:

/script load trigger
/trigger add -publics -masks 'identica!update@identi.ca' -channels '&bitlbee' -regexp "^XTaran: " -replace ''
/trigger save

And on the command line I just needed a symlink to automatically start the trigger plugin on irssi startup:

ln -vis /usr/share/irssi/scripts/trigger.pl ~/.irssi/scripts/autorun/

So now again only the important messages beep. :-)

How to make identi.ca talk //at 15:08 //by abe

from the microblogging-to-speech dept.

The listeners of yesterday’s episode of Venty’s Hackerfunk radio show on Radio LoRa already know and heard it: We made identi.ca talk. And we did it with help of other microbloggers. (The podcast version of this Hackerfunk episode will be online in a few days, too. Will link it here and either Venty or me will post it on identi.ca, too, as soon as it’s published.)

A few weeks ago we thought about how we could “show” microblogging on the radio. With identi.ca’s Jabber (XMPP) interface we have real time access, and so the idea was born to pipe all incoming ‘dents into a speech synthesis system.

Then we tried to figure out which tools would be appropriate. Quite fast, people on identi.ca as well as on the LUGS IRC (e.g. bones0) pointed us to festival and espeak. We found no support for German in festival, so we went for espeak – although festival would have had the advantage of the existence of a festival plugin for the popular multiprotocol messenger Pidgin.

Next step was more difficult than expected: How to make a “tail -f” of XMPP incoming messages? Something like rsstail, just for XMPP. Although using the IM to IRC gateway Bitlbee (as I use it myself) and using “tail -f” (or better “inotail -f”) on the IRC client’s log file (ii comes to my mind for such purposes) would have been an option, nobody had the idea at that time.

And since @deepspawn conjured xmpptail in less than two hours we happily took it. xmpptail (tar.gz) is written in Python and uses Twisted Words (Debian package python-twisted-words) as XMPP libraries.

I had to patch xmpptail slightly for unbuffered I/O, Unicode support and for removing things we don’t want to hear on the radio as follows, but it worked more or less out of the box.

--- xmmptail.py 2009-02-25 20:47:48.000000000 +0100
+++ xmpptail.py 2009-03-07 18:48:57.000000000 +0100
@@ -1,4 +1,4 @@
-#!/usr/bin/python
+#!/usr/bin/python -u
 # -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
 # author: Carlos A. Perilla 
 # This file is part of Jance bot.
@@ -65,7 +65,8 @@
          body = unicode(e.__str__())
          break
 
-    print("%s: %s" % (from_id,body))
+#    print("%s: %s" % (from_id,body))
+    print("%s" % (body.encode('utf-8')))
 
 
 def authfailedEvent(xmlstream):
@@ -80,9 +81,9 @@
   dprint('Got something: %s -> %s' % (el.name, str(el.attributes)))
 
 if __name__ == '__main__':
-    print "Starting"
+    #print "Starting"
     execfile('tailconf')
-    print USER_HANDLE
+    #print USER_HANDLE
     me = USER_HANDLE + "/xmpptail"
     myJid = jid.JID(me)
     server = USER_HANDLE[USER_HANDLE.find('@')+1:]

So after configuring xmpptail to use the hackerfunk Jabber account, we successfully ran the following script during the radio show:

./xmpptail.py | while read LINE; do
        if [ "$LINE" = "empty" ]; then
                continue;
        fi;
        echo $LINE
        echo $LINE | tee -a xmpp-espeak.log | espeak --stdin -v de;
done

At the end of the show, @rebugger found this howto which describes very detailed how to get festival working together with the non-free (“non-free” as in DFSG) MBROLA project which offers also the appropriate files for German. But because of how much work this would be to get it running, I currently prefer to stay with espeak for German speech synthesis .

Next step would be to use mnoGosearch’s mguesser to detect the language of a dent and run espeak (or whatever text-to-speech system is appropriate for the guessed language) with the appropiate options for that language, because otherwise many ‘dents sound really funny. ;-)

Update, 15:02: Venty gave the whole system the name “Identibla”.

Musikalisches-Podcast-Stöckchen //at 04:28 //by abe

Aus der Hackerfunk-und-die-Stöckchen Abteilung

Ist schon heftig, da bekommt ein Stöckchen von einem Podcast, obwohl man gar kein Podcasts hört – nur halt ab und an in einer Radiosendung auftaucht, die’s auch als Podcast gibt.

Und vorallem, wie verlinkt man solche Stöckchen? Ich klau mal die ausformulierten Regeln mal hier, das war in der Kette (AscariTomInMucPodshotsVentys HackerfunkBones0 seinem Chabis Podcast → hierher) grade greifbar.

Also hier die Regeln: “Suche das sechste Lied im sechsten Ordner heraus. Alternativ darf es auch das sechste Lied der sechsten CD im Regal oder das sechste Lied der Playlist sein.”

Da Ordner bei mir je nach Lust und Laune eine unterschiedliche Sortierung haben können, ist der sechste Ordner witzlos. Da gespielte Songs bei Rythmbox aus der Playlist rausfliegen, hat sich der sechste Song seit ich angefangen habe, diesen Text zu schreiben, mehrmals geändert. Also zum CD-Regal. Da sind grade viele CDs zweckswegen Sicherheitskopien grade nicht drin. In der ersten Spalte ist das sechste Fach leer und wenn mal die Fächer von rechts nach links und dann erst die nächste Reihe zählt, dann kommt — nee, das will man nicht, das sind Jugendsünden. ;-) Also nehmen wir in der ersten Spalte einfach die sechste CD und dort den sechsten Track:

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London — Yesterday

Also der Beatles-Klassiker “Yesterday” als Instrumental.

Wer den Song hören will, der sollte heute um 19 Uhr auf Radio LoRa den Hackerfunk einschalten. Venty wird den Track dort spielen. Aus dem Hackerfunk-Podcast wird der Song aufgrund der Halsabschneiderei der Musikindustrie leider rausgeschnippelt werden.

Achja, in der heutigen Folge des Hackerfunks wird es um Microblogging gehen. Und ich bin, wenn auch noch durch Erkältung etwas der Stimme beraubt, ebenfalls mit von der Partie.

Und wer ist als nächstes dran? Venty meinte vorhin auf #lugs so praktisch, daß Priska ja Stöckchenspezialistin sei, also geben wir das Stöckchen mal dorthin weiter. :-)

Now playing: Herbert Grönemeyer — Bleibt alles anders

Wednesday·11·February·2009

Favourite Linux Desktop Applications //at 15:01 //by abe

from the GUI dept.

foosel tagged me, whatever that means. Perhaps it’s the English word for “Stöckchen” (German for “small stick”) of which I always wondered how the English blogging part of the blogosphere is calling that kind of coercing blog posts… ;-)

So these are the rules:

  1. blog a list with your favorite desktop Linux software (as many or few you want)
  2. add links to the software project’s websites
  3. post these rules
  4. tag three other Linux using bloggers

Interestingly splitbrain, who started the thing just calls it “Meme”, but to me memes are the same thing just without duress. ;-)

So you want to know about what Linux desktop software I like and use, hmm? Desktop means GUI, doesn’t it? There are only a few GUI application I really use often since, as you probably know, X is primarily a terminal multiplexer and screen resolutions are compared by how many 80×25 xterms with fixed font you can get on one screen without overlapping. ;-)

But to be honest: Although I’m more the command line guy hacking cryptic lines into windows with small fonts, there are a few thing where I don’t want to miss X and the GUI applications: For all things web – that means web browser, feed reader, etc. But then there is also a bunch of GUI software I use occasionally or as alternative tool to some text mode or command line software.

Web

  • Liferea – My favuorite feed reader although it takes ages to start and since a few days also starts crashing, probably since I have configured it to cache up to 1000 items per feed and have subscribed to several hundred feeds.

    I do not read them all though, but I use them togther with Liferea’s “search all feeds” feature as a Google News replacement. ;-) I though read a lot of feeds in it, since I use it for news, blogs, webcomics and to read missed tweets on Twitter. It organizes the feeds in a tree structure so I can easily group different types of content together.

  • Opera – I’m back using Opera as my primary web browser since they offer alpha versions for 64-bit Linux.

    Initally I started using Opera with version 3.60 on Windows 95 somewhere about 10 years ago and I’ve always come back to it when no current free browser fits my needs.

    Although it hasn’t an AddOn possibility as Firefox has, I still prefer it over the bloaty and leaky and quite unstable Firefox 2, since it offers nearly every functionality I need (mainly mouse gestures and a flexible tab management), is fast, needs less RAM and is quite stable for an alpha version. And Firefox only offers those features I need via Addons which are often the cause for leaking or crashing. Haven’t tested Firefox 3 yet, but it’s said to be be less bloaty…

  • Kazehakase – Formerly I used kazehakase as my primary web browser since I really like its user interface, but the version in Etch is quite slow and seems to have memory leaks. It’s currently the second browser I have always open. But since my browsers always have uptimes in terms of months I don’t need web browsers that are leaking, so I’m thinking about replacing it with something more stable.

  • Conkeror – A Gecko 1.9 (i.e. Firefox 3) based web browser completely controllable with the keyboard. And the key bindings are those from Emacs and partially also from the classic text-mode browser Lynx. Will be available in Debian Experimental soon.

  • Netsurf looks very promising as it’s a simple and fast browser with it’s own rendering engine and originating on RISC OS. But since I’m a heavy tab user (60 tabs in one window are not really seldom), a browser (yet) without tabs isn’t really that useful for me. But I hope it will get tabs soon.

  • Midori – The other upcoming new browser in the Linux world is using Apple’s WebKit (which itself is based on KDE’s KHTML) underneath. Only in Experimental yet (form a Debian point of view :-). Use it on my Debian Sid machine to play around with it.

  • Twitux – A simple GTK Twitter client which doesn’t clutter the screen with unnecessary icons or buttons. Just a small menu bar, status bar and the tweets.

  • Azureus – In the seldom case where I need to download files via Bittorrent I either use Opera’s builtin client or Azureus. The nice thing about Azureus is that you can get nice graphical as well as textual statistics about all aspects of your downloads.

X / Desktop Environment

  • FVWM – My favourite window manager for normal, big or multiple screens. I use it since more than 10 years (twm and tvtwm were its predecessors) and its configuration has evolved since then quite a bit to tinted transparent window frames and title bars, etc.

    I tried other window managers in between (e.g. Sawfish and GNOME’s own Metacity, each for a month or so and both together GNOME, also played around with KDE on one machine) and I always came back to FVWM. No other window manager is so fast and configurable in regards of keybindings. Handles multiple screen very well and out of the box, too.

  • ratpoison – My favourite window manager for small screens (less than about 1024×768, e.g. on my EeePC, on the 8” touchscreen connected to my MicroClient Jr. or on my 1996 ThinkPad 760ED with 133 MHz Pentium 1) since it doesn’t waste screen space for window borders or title bars. It just maximizes all windows by default to screen resolution. You then can manage (split, resize, switch, close, kill) windows as you are used to manage shells and text-mode applications with screen(1). Doesn’t work that well with multiple xrandr managed screens though if they don’t have the same size.

  • FLWM – The Fast and Light Window Manager. My favourite low-end but still DAU compatible window manager. Use that on demo and guest accounts, especially on low end machines.

  • Synergy – connects displays of other computers (not only X but also even Mac or Windows) with your mouse and keyboard similar to a KVM switch. I use it at work to add my laptop as fourth monitor. ;-)

  • trayer – A desktop environmen independend system tray developed by the FVWM Crystal Project. Since I changed from manually editing /etc/network/interface on my laptop each time I came into a new wireless LAN to using GNOME’s Network Manager, I needed a system tray for the nm-applet. Trayer is quite easy to configure using command line options and can handle tinted transparency as I use with FVWM and ATerms. So it fits in perfectly.

  • ratmenu and dmenu – For showing generated menus together with ratpoison, I use ratmenu (e.g. as replacement for ratpoison’s non-interactive window list) and dmenu (e.g. as application menu using my own wrapper which generates the menu from some config file). Probably will publish that code once it proved itself stable.

  • xtrlock – the simplest tool to lock you desktop: The mouse turns into a lock and it only goes away if you enter the right password. No screen saver included though and everyone can see what’s on your desk. I like it though. Use it on low-end machines.

  • XScreenSaver and Really Slick Screensavers (GLX Port) – Configurable and command controllable screen saver daemon. Favourite modes: GLMatrix and Substrate from XScreenSaver and Lattice Sky Rocket and Hufo’s Smoke from RSS GLX.

  • xosview – my favourite system monitor since more than a decade.

Terminals

  • xterm – there is no better X terminal emulator than the original xterm. I found no other terminal which is so fast, has no problems with text-mode applications (aterms break aptitude’s display), no problems with character set encodings, which can be embedded into other applications and which has a fully working classic Unix cut & paste.

  • aterm – When I need a fancy transparent terminal for showing a fancy desktop, I use the AfterStep Terminal Emulator aterm. In that case, the system tray, the window borders, the window’s title bar and the terminal on my desktop have the same fancy tinted transparency.

  • yeahconsole – A wrapper around xterm which works like the pulldown console in quake. Good for the short shell usage inbetween. ;-)

    The other similar pull down consoles I know (KDEish yakuake and GNOMEish tilda) had some issues with focus and keybindings while yeahconsole works just out of the box and showed no problems until now.

Audio and Video

  • XMMS and Audacious – If I want to play a single list of files of the same file format or single stream, I usually use the command line tools mpg123 and ogg123. But if I need anything more fancy or more flexible, I prefer the WinAMP clones. Formerly XMMS, nowadays Audacious. Both with some old skin which I use since more than a decade and which I initially used with WinAMP 2 on Windows 95.

  • mplayer – no fancy GUI, easily controllable with the keyboard, plays most video file formats I can remember. ;-)

Editing and Developing

  • GNU Emacs – I’ve been raised with GNU Emacs and Lisp at university, so I’m quite sticked to that. I usually only start one Emacs instance and connect to it using emacsclient. I also like TRAMP for editing remote files. but I don’t need it that often.

    On machines, where I don’t want a full blown Emacs installation or under root I prefer GNU Emacs’ little brother GNU Zile (Zile Is a Lossy Emacs), but that’s text-mode and no GUI software.

  • OpenOffice.org – I think it’s a really great software, but I use it quite seldom, usually only when I have to open some file in a Microsoft file format. For writing letters, articles, presentations and so I have LaTeX.

  • Gnumeric – My preferred spreadsheet application. Although for some purposes I use the OpenOffice.org spreadsheet, usually when Gnumeric has not all necessary features.

Graphics

  • xv – Yet another tool I use since more than a decade: No other image viewer is so fast and yet so easy to use with both keyboard and mouse. Open source, but unfortunately not (yet?) free software.

  • keyjnote – fancy PDF presenter with a lot of interactive features.

  • pdfcube – PDF presenter turning pages as a cube as compiz or Macs do with the desktop.

Chat

  • Pidgin – I usually use irssi inside a screen for IRC as well as Jabber and ICQ (via Bitlbee), but I also often have a local Jabber client running which then is Pidgin (formerly known as GAIM).

Other Tools

  • Unison – I use it to synchonise the cache and state of my feed reader between laptop and workstation. And I do indeed prefer the GUI version over the text-mode version. I use the text-mode only if I use it from some remote location.

  • XKeyCaps – The ideal tool to wreck you keyboard layout. ;-)

  • XGnokii – Used it to backup my former Nokia mobile phones, the 6130, the 6210i and the 6310i. Doesn’t work anymore with my new E51, though.

  • Sunbird / Iceowl – Not really using it yet, but I plan to use it as my primary calendar tool.

  • QEMU / KVM / KQEMU – My favourite desktop hardware emulator. (For servers, I prefer Xen for virtualization.)

Games

Non-Desktop Applications

In case someone wonders about my mail client, Jabber client, IRC client, ICQ client, file manager, notes taking application, shell and versioning system – they’re all command line or text-mode applications:

Who’s next?

That’s difficult:

  • maol would be interesting, but since a while he just blogs in Jeopardy style, so he would need pack all those programs into the subject of his blog post… No, not a good idea.
  • Venty! No, has no active blog anymore.
  • Dieter! No, no Linux user.

Hmmm, I think I have to look in a different corner of my circle of friends. Hmm. Ah, now I know:

  • dyfa – not really a Linux user, but I guess FreeBSD is ok, too. :-)
  • nion – this will be really interesting. He even uses more strange software than I do. ;-)
  • alphascorpii – no idea what she prefers (except that it will be available as Debian package ;-)

And no, I don’t expect posts as comprehensive as mine. :-)

OMG, they killed del.icio.us! You bastards! //at 01:15 //by abe

from the susp.icio.us dept.

Yeah, it happened already a while ago, but I still get angry about it, so I need to rant about it in my blog:

Yahoo!, the owner of del.icio.us, recently renamed the cool old del.icio.us to the no more cool and two bytes longer delicious.com. WTF? Part of del.icio.us’ popularity was its cool host name, why drop that? And even if a few dumbasses don’t understand the wordplay on the perfect host name, they could have offered delicious.com as a second domain name which works in parallel.

But no, they dropped the good old del.icio.us in a way so that all old bookmarklets, bookmarks, plugins, etc. don’t work right anymore and I need to login each time I want to save a bookmark on all browsers where I once was logged in on the old site even if I’m already logged in at the new site in the same browser session. delicious.com sucks.

And no, I don’t let count Gabor’s argument that people have difficulties with domains like del.icio.us, since many sites are well known or can be easily remembered because of their creative host or domain name: del.icio.us, script.aculo.us, wua.la, identi.ca, certifi.ca, laconi.ca, cr.yp.to, pix.ie, buenz.li (Swiss German), go.to, bit.ly, chickensh.it, gibts.net (German), doma.in, moinmo.in, etc.

No wonder, Montenegro sells many second level domains under their top level domain .me as “premium domains”.

Friday·23·January·2009

MBC09: The Day Before //at 14:04 //by abe

from the DB-sucks dept.

Helped my parents moving the first half of the week. Left there at Thurdays around 9am. Drove 45min to Zurich. Removed everything bicycle related from my daypack. Left the TomTom at home. (Google Maps on the E51 has to sufficed and sufficed so far.) Crammed cloths for three days in.

Was at Zurich Main Station around 11:40am. My plan was to take the direct ICE train from Zurich to Hamburg Dammtor. Bought a Rivella for the journey.

First suprise at the platform: No ICE train. Instead a Swiss InterCity. The staff told us due to a defect in the ICE train, we have to go to Basel SBB with this train, then switch trains there. No carriage numbers and reservations valid here. Hrmpf. For luck, there where not that many people in the train. No power sockets though.

Next surprise at Basel SBB: No ICE train here either. We’re advised to switch to a German InterCity and then switch again a few kilometers later at Basel Badischer Bahnhof (aka “Basel, German Station”).

There then finally waited an ICE labelled as the initially expected ICE 72 from Zurich to Hamburg Altona. Even the reservations were displayed, departure was though 20min later than the original ICE 72.

The voice from the speakers told us that this is a replacement train which came empty from Zurich. WTF? The next time the voice explained the situation, it was a replacement train coming from Interlaken… Ok, DB is not as insane as I believed for about half an hour. ;-)

Worked though the git tutorial and the git glossary on the train since in future I’ll use git in some of the OSS project I’m working together with — Conkeror beyond others. Also had a conversation with some doctor from University Hospital Zurich who has chasing as hobby. (WTF?)

The train arrived about 45 minutes late at Dammtor, so I first checked in in my hotel (“Hotel am Dammtor”, very close to the MBC09 venue) and then walked to Hamburger Botschaft where the twitter reading was already running, hoping to meet someone I know and having dinner afterwards. Guided by Google Maps on my Nokia E51 it took longer than expected to walk there. And it was windy and raining.

The twitter reading venue was quite full, but I still found a place where I saw most of the screen. At least the reminder of reading was quite funny: #famouslasttweets. They closed with a tweet similar to “And then there’s also identi.ca”. :-)

I was told it wasn’t that funny at the beginning. Didn’t find anyone I really knew, just sticked to a group talking about being hungry. When we met @igorette on our way to some restaurant and he recognised me, I found out that @muhh was also in the group I’m heading though Hamburg.

We had a nice dinner at Schmitt Foxyfood, I had GrillGold (Pommes Frites) with WuchtBrumme (Currywurst) and Fritz Cola.

After dinner, @moeffju drove me and some other guy to our hotels.

So the first evening was already very interesting despite the usual lateness of Deutsche Bahn.

Thursday·22·January·2009

Tablet Amora runs on the OpenMoko FreeRunner (updated) //at 00:13 //by abe

from the PoC-packaging-for-PoC-software dept.

Amora (“A MObile Remote Assistant”) is a client/server suite which allows you to remote control an X desktop using a bluetooth enabled mobile phone. Initially there was only a Symbian client (running e.g. on nearly all Nokia E and N series phones), but J2ME clients are under developement, too.

Then there is Tablet Amora (aka Tamora), an Amora “proof of concept” client for the Maemo platform which runs on internet tablets like e.g. the linux based Nokia N770, N800, and N810. Since Maemo isn’t that far away from what runs on the OpenMoko, getting Tamora working on the OpenMoko, too, suggested itself.

Maemo seems to use the deb package format, too, just slightly extended (e.g. by package icons), so it wasn’t even that hard work to adapt the existing Maemo packaging to build, install and run on Debian, too.

So that’s how Tamora looks on the OpenMoko:

The packaging is still far away from Debian standards (throws tons of lintian warnings and the source package generation is b0rked), so yet there are no prebuilt debs available, but you can checkout amora-client from the Subversion repository and build the package from there:

 $ svn checkout http://amora.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/amora-client/maemo/ amora-client
 $ cd amora-client
 $ debuild -uc -us
 $ cd ..
 # dpkg -i amora-client_0.1-2maemo+openmoko_all.deb

For running and installing tamora you need packages from the pkg-fso APT repository on alioth. And to build it, you need the libedje-bin which is available from the pkg-fso repository for at least the armel architecture, or else from Debian experimental. You can add these repositories to your sources.list as follows:

 # PKG FSO repository
 deb     http://pkg-fso.alioth.debian.org/debian unstable main
 deb-src http://pkg-fso.alioth.debian.org/debian unstable main

 # Debian Experimental
 deb     http://ftp.ch.debian.org/debian experimental main
 deb-src http://ftp.ch.debian.org/debian experimental main

Since Tamora is yet only a “proof of concept” client, currently only the following remote functions are available:

  • pressing arrow key right/left
  • pressing F5 (fullscreen for the OpenOffice.org Presenter)

This should though at least suffice for a presentation with the OpenOffice.org Presenter.

To use Tamora to remote control your Debian laptop, you need a bluetooth dongle (or builtin bluetooth support) and amora-server installed as with the Symbian S60 (3rd Edition) Amora client, too.

Update, 23:51

libedje-bin seem not available in the pkg-fso repository for every architecture. You’ll also find it in Debian experimental. Updated the sources.list section above appropriately. Thanks to Sebastian Montini for pointing out this problem.

Tuesday·20·January·2009

First experiences with Debian on the OpenMoko FreeRunner //at 00:40 //by abe

from the DIY dept.

I ogled with an OpenMoko FreeRunner since Harald König (of X.org fame)’s OpenMoko talk at LinuxDay.at last year. I knew that a team around Luca Capello and Joachim Breitner managed to get Debian running on it.

So when Venty told me that harzi wants to sell his nearly unused FreeRunner, I couldn’t resist and bought it just a few days later.

I played around a little bit with the two distributions which were already installed, AFAIK the original 2007.2 and a version of Qtopia. Called Venty with the Qtopia to prove him that you indeed can make phone calls with this phone, but he wasn’t pleased by the echo he heard of his own voice.

Since the included 512 MB microSD card surely is too small for a large Debian installation, I bought an additional 8 GB microSDHC card at digitec and then installed Debian on it.

The installation mostly went smooth: Partitioning threw a timeout error which didn’t cause any further harm than aborting once. A bigger problem was that the hint that you need to update the U-Boot bootloader itself and not only its configuration (called environement) to get it booting from ext2 partitions. lindi (Timo Lindfors) on #openmoko-debian (on Freenode) was of great help spotting the small details hidden in continuous text.

After having Debian booting I installed all software I wanted to play around on a mobile phone including a bunch of web browsers. But since I ran into a bug which occurs after a non-deterministic amount of data is written to a big microSD card, I quickly got annoyed by the fact that I had to wait for the 8 GB fsck each time this bug was triggered.

So I converted the root file system to ext3 by adding a journal. But whatever I did (reinstalling U-Boot, the U-Boot environement, regenerating the U-Boot environement from scratch, trying to load it as ext2 again, etc.) I didn’t get it to work anymore.

On #openmoko on Freenode, PaulFertser was trying to convince me that Qi is the better choice of a bootloader. Although its description didn’t appeal to me at all, I understand that U-Boot seems a maintainability hell and that a more simplicistic approach can have its advantages. But there was feature listed on the Qi wiki page which made me try it: explicit ext3 support.

After creating the appropriate configuration files and symbolic links in /boot/boot and flashing Qi over the U-Boot in the NAND flash, Debian booted again without problems and with a journaling file system. :-)

In the meantime I found a setup which suites my tastes:

  • Matchbox stays my window manager, but I enabled the cursor which is very useful if you want to remote control you OpenMoko with synergy. I installed unclutter to automatically hide the cursor after a few seconds, so I see it when it moves, but it goes out of the way when not needed.
  • Like on my EeePC, I replaced trayer with lxpanel, because it also provides access to the Debian menu system.
  • The best compromise in rendering quality and resource usage is still NetSurf. So that’s my browser on the OpenMoko.

Next step will be to move daily usage from root to an unprivileged user.

As soon as that’s done, I’ll try to get Tablet Amora aka Tamora working on the OpenMoko, too. Currently it only runs on Nokia’s Linux based internet tablets (N800, N810, etc.).

Update, 17:54

To answer Joachim’s question in the comment: I don’t plan to use it as daily phone, but it may replace my old Nokia 6310i where currently my German mobile phone SIM card resides in. Use it mainly to have a cheap way to make phone calls inside Germany.

How I use my virtual desktops //at 00:29 //by abe

from the when-individualism-becomes-a-habit dept.

Many months ago I stumbled upon this German written meme about how users use their virtual desktops. I use virtual desktops since my very early Unix times (tvtwm on Sun Sparc SLC/ELC/IPX with greyscale screens running SunOS 4.x), so in the meantime I use them nearly everywhere the same way.

Short Summary

3x5, no overlapping windows, either tiling or fullscreen, keyboard navigation, xterms, yeahconsole, FVWM, panel for systray.

Window Manager of Choice

My window manager of choice is FVWM since more than a decade. I tried others like Sawfish, Metacity and Compiz, but I couldn’t get them behave like the FVWM I got used to, so I always came back.

Since I hate overlapping windows, I use FVWM a lot like a tiling window manager. FVWM has this nice function to maximize windows so that they occupy as much space as available, but do not overlap other windows. This function was also often missing when I tried other window managers. I though do not want to use real tiling window managers since I have a few sticky windows around (e.g. the panner with the virtual desktops and xosview) and they shouldn’t be overlapped either.

Virtual Desktops

Switching between virtual desktops is done with the keyboard only – with Ctrl-Shift as modifier and the cursor keys. The cursor keys are usually pressed with thumb, ring and small finger of the right hand. Which hand presses Ctrl and Shift depend on the situation and keyboard layout, but it’s usually either ring and small finger of the left hand, or pointer and middle finger of the right hand. So I’m able to switch the virtual desktop with only one hand.

I have always three rows of virtual desktops and usually four or five columns.

The top row is usually occupied with xterms. It’s my work space. The top left workspace usually contains at least one xterms with a shell and one with mutt, my favourite e-mail client since nearly a decade. At home the second left virtual desktop in the top row usually contains a full-screen Liferea (my preferred feed reader) while at work it contains the GNU Emacs main window besides two xterms. Emacs and the emacs server are automatically started at login.

This also means that I switch the virtual desktops when I switch between mutt and Emacs for typing the content of an e-mail. Did this already during my studies. (At home mutt runs inside a screen, so there I just switch the virtual terminal with Ctrl-A Ctrl-A instead of the virtual desktop. Not that big difference ;-)

The other virtual desktops of the the top row get filled with xterms as needed. Usually one virtual desktop per task.

The middle row is for web browsers. One full screen browser (usually Conkeror or Opera) per virtual desktop, often opened with many tabs (tabs in Opera, buffers in Conkeror) related to the task I’m accomplishing in the xterms in the virtual deskop directly above.

The third row usually contains root shells for maintenance tasks, either permanently open ones on machines I need an administrate often (e.g. daily updates of Debian testing or Debian unstable machines), or for temporary mass administration (Linux workstations on the job, all Xen DomUs of one Xen server, etc.) using pconsole.

yeahconsole

Additionally I have a sticky yeahconsole running, an xterm which slides down from the top like the console in Quake. (It’s the only overlapping thing I use. :-) My yeahconsole can be activated on every virtual desktop by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Z (with QWERTY layout, Ctrl-Alt-Y with QWERTZ layout). It’s the terminal for those one-line jobs then and when, e.g. calling ccal, translate, wget or clive.

Changes over time

Of course the desktop usage changes from time to time:

At work I have more than one monitor, so in the meanwhile the second row with the web browsers “moved” to the second screen – with independent virtual desktops (multiple X servers, no Xinerama). The second row on the main screen at work is now used the same way as the third row with a slight preference for the permanently open shells while the third row is more used for mass administration with pconsole.

At home I used XMMS respective Audacious for a long time (my FVWM panner and xosview are exactly as wide as WinAmp2/XMMS/Audacious, guess why:-) which usually was sticky the same way as the panner and xosview are. But when I started using last.fm recently, I moved to Rhythmbox (after testing some other music players like e.g. Amarok) which I use in fullscreen as I do with web browsers and the feed reader. So it occupies a complete virtual desktop, usually the second one in the middle row – below the feed reader because I don’t need a corresponding web browser for the feed reader. (Just found out that there is a last.fm player for text-mode, so maybe that will change again. :-)

Another thing which changed my virtual desktop usage was the switch from a classical tabbed web browser (Galeon, Kazehakase, Opera) to the buffer oriented Conkeror. With a tabbed web browser I have either no overview over all open tabs (one row tab bar or truncated tab menu) or they occupy too much space of the browser window. That was another reason for more than one browser window and therefore more than one virtual desktop with fullscreen web browser windows. With Conkeror tabs are optional (and not even enabled by default), Conkeror uses buffer like Emacs and if you want to switch to another buffer, you press C-x b and then start typing parts of the buffer’s name (e.g. parts of the URL or the web page title) to narrow down the list of buffers until only one is left or until you have spotted the wanted buffer in the list and choose it with the cursor keys. So the need for more than one browser window is gone.

For a long time I didn’t need any task/menu/start/whatever bar on my desktop. But since neither NetworkManager nor wicd have a comand-line interface (yet) and bluetooth seems also easier handled from the system tray my laptops also use either gnome-panel (big screen, long sessions with FVWM) or lxpanel (formerly used trayer; use it on small screen, short sessions with ratpoison or matchbox) on my laptops. It’s sticky and always visible. (No overlapping, remember? ;-)

The panel is usually at the bottom on the screen as by default with Windows or KDE, not at top as with GNOME and MacOS. Only on the OpenMoko, I have the panel at the top to be close to what I’m used from Nokia mobile phones.

Things I tried …

… but didn’t survive in my setup:

  • Desktop icons – nearly always covered if you use a tiling window manager. (I though use root window menus – mostly for starting applications later occupying that space where I clicked. ;-)
  • A button to minimize all windows. Only sissies without virtual deskops need that. ;-)
  • Automatically scrolling logfile content on the desktop (root-tail, root-portal, etc) – the space was too precious to not use it for xterms or web browsers. ;-)

Systems without Virtual Desktops

Anyway, there are systems where I don’t use virtual desktops at all. On systems with a screen resolution so small that there’s not enough space for two non-overlapping, fixed font 80x25 xterms on the screen (e.g. on my MicroClient with 8” touch screen, the 7” EeePC or the OpenMoko) I do not use virtual desktops at all. On such systems I use all applications in fullscreen, so switching between applications is like switching virtual desktops anyway. My window managers of choice for such systems are ratpoison for systems with keyboard and matchbox for system without keyboard. With ratpoison you treat windows like terminals in GNU screen, so there are no new keybindings to learn if you’re already used to screen (which I use nearly daily since more than a decade).

Monday·19·January·2009

Traveling plans for the first half of 2009 //at 16:12 //by abe

from the Summer-holidays dept.

Since the time between the years is traditionally family time for me, I never were at the Chaos Communication Congress. So I wasn’t at 25C3 either. All the more I look forward to HAR2009 this summer (13th to 16th of August near Vierhouten in the Netherlands), but also because, for the last three years I always have been in the Netherlands for one week in summer, sailing with friends on the IJsselmeer.

But before HAR2009, there will be a bunch of other events to visit and people to meet in real life:

  • I’m looking forward to see @evan, @cemb and many other identicatis in real life at Microblogging Conference ‘09 in Hamburg next week on Friday and Saturday (23rd and 24th of January). Will go there by train.
  • Two weeks later there will be FOSDEM in Brussels (7th and 8th of February) where I hopefully will meet Savago from the Amora Project and many other friends from the FOSS community. Will go there either by train or car.
  • On 14th and 15th of March, the Chemnitzer Linux-Tage take place. I’ve submitted two talks for beginners and will be there with the usual suspects from Symlink (Venty, dino and P2501 so far). We’ll go there by train.
  • Luckily not overlapping with the VCFe this year is the SPEZI at Germersheim near Karlsruhe which takes place on 25th and 26th of April. I plan to go there, maybe by train and Brompton, but nothing yet sure.
  • The, one week later over the long weekend around the 1st of May there will be Vintage Computer Festival Europe (VCFe) 10.0 at Munich featuring Raffzahn. Will be there with the usual suspects. I’ll maybe prepare an exhibition (“Debian on dead hardware”, i.e. PowerPC, Sparc, Alpha, etc. or so) or a talk, but not yet sure. Will go there by (vintage) car as usual.

Then there will be the big summer holidays driving around in the middle of Europe with the 2CV and taking part in most likely:

  • Sailing with friends from 31st of July to 7th of August,
  • HAR2009 one weekend later, and
  • FrOSCon at St. Augustin near Bonn another weekend later.

This also means that I’ll probably miss:

… at least unless one of the other events I plan to visit doesn’t take place as expected or my plans change heavily.

P.S.: Anyone thinks this amount of events justifies a Dopplr account? ;-) Or is there somewhere a free online service similar to Dopplr, but runs software under the GNU Affero General Public License like e.g. identi.ca and many other Laconica instances do for microblogging?

Saturday·10·January·2009

Draw a Bunny //at 01:56 //by abe

from the got-tagged dept.

I got tagged. By splitbrain. With a really silly but funny meme. The basic rule is: Draw a bunny.

So here’s my bunny:

             /\ /\
            |,.|,.|
            |||||||
             \'|`/
            / . .\
           (   Y  )
          __\ `v'/
       _-^      \
     ,'  _       |
    /     `\    /
 _ ;        | , \\
/ `|      __;__\ \\
\_,\___________;\_;;

Nobody said, ASCII art is not allowed and I drew it myself with aewan (Ascii art Editor Without A Name) in an xterm. But aewan was not really a help here, Emacs would have done the same job. In fact I had to fix some non-ascii characters later by using Emacs anyway.

Ok, and since this are the rules:

  1. Draw a Bunny (or more)
  2. Post it to your blog with the rules
  3. Name three other bloggers that should draw a bunny

You can draw your bunny however you like. Use pencil and paper, a drawing tablet or just your mouse. It doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if it looks crappy or not. The important thing is the bunny!

… here are the three blogger I’m tagging. Ehm, that’s harder than the bunny. Hmmm. I think, I’ll stay with the DokuWiki on identi.ca crowd for tagging. So I herewith tag:

  1. foosel,
  2. chimeric, and
  3. jaypikay

Hope, they don’t mind and join the fun. ;-)

Tag Cloud

2CV, aha, Apache, APT, aptitude, ASUS, Automobiles, autossh, Berlin, bijou, Blogging, Blosxom, Blosxom Plugin, Browser, BSD, CDU, Chemnitz, Citroën, CLI, CLT, Conkeror, CX, deb, Debian, Doofe Parteien, E-Mail, eBay, EeePC, Emacs, Epiphany, Etch, ETH Zürich, Events, Experimental, Firefox, Fläsch, FreeBSD, Freitagstexter, FVWM, Galeon, Gecko, git, GitHub, GNOME, GNU, GNU Coreutils, GNU Screen, Google, GPL, grep, grml, gzip, Hackerfunk, Hacks, Hardware, Heise, HTML, identi.ca, IRC, irssi, Jabber, JavaShit, Kazehakase, Lenny, Liferea, Linux, LinuxTag, LUGS, Lynx, maol, Meme, Microsoft, Mozilla, Music, mutt, Myon, München, nemo, Nokia, nuggets, Open Source, Opera, packaging, Pentium I, Perl, Planet Debian, Planet Symlink, Quiz, Rant, ratpoison, Religion, RIP, Sarcasm, Sarge, Schweiz, screen, Shell, Sid, Spam, Squeeze, SSH, Stoeckchen, Stöckchen, SuSE, Symlink, Symlink-Artikel, Tagging, Talk, taz, Text Mode, ThinkPad, Ubuntu, USA, USB, UUUCO, UUUT, VCFe, Ventilator, Vintage, Wahlen, Wheezy, Wikipedia, Windows, WML, Woody, WTF, X, Xen, zsh, Zürich, ÖPNV

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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 Network Security Group (NSG) of the Central IT Services (Informatikdienste) 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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Bedside Reading

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)

Postponed