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Entries posted in December 2006

Stand up tall and scream and shout about it

5 December 2006 21:50

Radu Spineanu continues performing excellent work on the package for xen-tools - he's released a new .deb which can be found here:

deb http://arcadia.timisoara.roedu.net/xen-tools ./

Testing is good. If you use the software then please give it a whirl. The aim of this pre-release is to make sure that the 3.0 release is good. That is the release I'm expecting to be contained in the Etch release so it needs to be as good as it can be.

I'm expecting the package to hit Sid sometime soon, but if you're keen .. get it while it is hot!

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With our lecherous plans

6 December 2006 21:50

Multiple times we've talked about having a Debian-Developer-Gallery. That could be something like all the pictures from various conferences and events, to just having a mugshot of each registered developer.

So :

  1. Is this a good idea?
  2. Do you have a picture you'd like to be included?

I'm volunteering to setup a simple site which will contain one photograph of each Debian Developer (ideally which they will submit themselves, I'm not sure how to handle the case of somebody saying "This pictures is [email protected]" when foo didn't authorise/expect it to become public.)

This simple site will be accessed via:

  • http://mugshots.debian.net/foo/

Each page will contain:

  • Link to the homepage of dd-foo, as found in LDAP.
  • One single image of user foo. Thumbnail if "too big" linking to the full size version.
  • (Optionally links to QA.d.org, etc, but that is secondary to this purpose.)

(No ratings, no tagging, possibly a "random user" link, or an index by username. Nothing complex or too dynamic)

Suggestions for a better name would be appreciated. I figure either "faces" or "mugshots" - since the obvious "gallery.d.net" is already taken.

So .. comment here if you think this is a good idea. Or feel free to mail me a link/attached image.

Assuming I get say 50 developers thinking this is a good idea I will setup the DNS alias and put the site live. Bandwidth will be minimal, but I think having the friendly faces (?!) visible would be a good thing. And will make identification of people prior to meetings signficantly easier.

(At times like this I wish I could host a real poll .. but ignoring that for a second.)

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Let me hear you speaking just for me

8 December 2006 21:50


A couple of HTML::Template files and a directory of images will be transformed into a series of static pages via a simple Perl script.

All images are "public" ones as used upon Debian Planet - ask me and I'll remove you. If your name / homepage is missing then edit them yourselves in the LDAP database.

Opt-in picture uploading will be added when I can get a procmail recipe which validates a GPG signature and saves a single attachment to a directory. Help?

The layout is stolen from mentors.debian.net - and I will fix that with a unique style once I get a few hours spare. Volunteers for CSS-fu much appreciated.

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Do you know what it feels like in this world

13 December 2006 21:50


Amaya was right to point out an example of sexism at a recent open source developers conference.

She makes reference to the Debian Women group as an example of a good thing.

I was talking to Erinn recently and told her that my impression was that the Women project had stalled/ceased. Mostly because there didn't seem to be anything happening.

I think that this is both a good thing, and a bad thing.

Good in the sense that the idea of female developers isn't a suprise (as it shouldn't be) and that the previously overt sexist hostility is going away. But bad in the sense that there should be ongoing work so that we don't start to take it for granted and ignore other newcomers and women.

There are several reasons why projects like this stall; one of the most obvious is that writing documentation is hard. Really. You don't know how hard it is until you try to do a little every day for week after week after week.

(And there are times when I think of writing a book. Ha!)

There are other reasons too; such as the difficulty in attracting volunteers who are matched to their jobs, and who in turn have the time to do useful things.

So Planet Debian how are you going to help our women today?

I'll make sure I avoid sexist lyrics in my titles from here on out.. not a huge change since I tend to avoid it generally, much as I would love to fill entries with Depeche Mode lyrics I guess I have better places for emo-rants.

One small step ..

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How long? Not long

19 December 2006 21:50

In the finest tradition it is Christmas-time and my computer is dead.

OK slight exaguration. I have two computers I regularly use:


This is my main development machine, which I sit in front of and work at most days.


This has several roles:

  • xen
    • So that I can run Sarge for building security updates.
  • caching name server
  • backup server

(Both of these machines run Sid.)

The backup server is the important use for this machine. Every four hours I do a full database dump + rsync of d-a.org, my personal server, and my desktop system.

The backup machine, itchy, is currently down because of a failing hard drive.

I've ordered a replacement computer (a bit extravogent considering I could have got by with just a new disk drive). This will be my first 64-bit machine, and also my first machine with hardware support for virtualisation.

The new machine should arrive on Saturday. Once it does I'll rotate it in.

The new machine will become my desktop. My desktop will become the backup, and the old machine with the failing drive will be donated to my Sister. (Who I was due to give a machine to already. I will need to get a new disk but that will be done shortly.)

I think I'll try sticking with Etch on the new machine, and possibly make the backup machine run it too. I guess I don't need sid yet… Besides Xen makes new installations easy :)

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Welcome to where time stands still

21 December 2006 21:50

I can be childish too: PHP must die

I've been actively migrating services away from PHP for a while now, even at the cost of having to use less mature applications which aren't as pretty. I'm definitely at the point now where I simply don't trust it and the applications which (ab)use it.

Tonights job is to look for a non-PHP blogging application which can import my wordpress content from. I even wrote 75% of one myself once upon a time, but I lacked the time to finish it off.

Sure there are good PHP coders out there, I'm just sick of the rest.

Somebody should write a intepretted templating system similar to PHP, but with no bugs. Although maybe thats the problem, giving people the ablity to mix presentation inline with code was a fundamentally bad idea to start with? Since it led to non-programmers producing things that were broken.

I do keep meaning to look at Rails, but I'm usually turned off by the problems of mixing Debian packages with the rubyforge gems - I like to keep things from one source. (e.g. 99% of my perl modules are Debian packages, not CPAN packages.)

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It's time we all reach out 4 something new

23 December 2006 21:50

Well I have a new computer which is running Debian Etch.

The process was painful though. For a start I stupidly forgot to check that the motherboard had on-board graphics (hint: no) and so I didn't order a graphics card.

Sadly the motherboard also doesn't have an AGP slot, so I couldn't migrate a working card from elsewhere. Instead I had to go out and buy a PCI-express card from a local store.

Once that was done I figured installing Etch would be simple. Not so.

Update:: Tale of woe snipped. Apparently to netboot into the Etch installer I need to add:


The "nosmp" worries me since it is a dual-core processor .. but once I've played around and upgraded the kernel I'll see if removing that causes problems.

Update #2: 64-bit host running Xen and X.org. Took me an hour to work out that the sound being "quiet" no matter how much I raised the volume control was due to me plugging in the speaker cable to the wrong socket and not the traditional alsa weirdness I was used to!

Strangly even with USB enabled I cannot mount my external USB drive - so that is NFS shared for the moment.

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I'm going to give it all of my loving, its going to take up all of my time

24 December 2006 21:50

New computer is working in a nice stable fashion although with no working USB for no reason that I can fathom. (Plug in a device and nothing happens. No kernel messages, etc)

I will document this properly a little later, and update the map to match.

All told the new machine is:

  • Motherboard: Nvidia Nforce N570 SLi Chipset
  • Processor: AMD X2 AM2 4200 Dual Core
  • Memory: 1Gb. (2+512Mb)
  • Disk: 1+320Gb SATA drive.
  • Graphics: PCI-Express ATI Radeon Extreme AX300SE

The graphics give me 1280+1024 which is as much as I can handle on my 17" TFT display, and didn't require any non-free drivers.

I wandered into a couple of local stores and said "I'm looking to buy a graphics card, what do you have in the PCI express flavour?". The answers ranged from:

  • Nothing .. sold out.
  • NVIdia .. something .. £100+
  • ATI Radeon £39.99

So whilst I wanted to get an NVIdia card since they traditionally have had drivers which work for me I was happy to get the cheaper one and hope for the best. As it turns out I'm using xserver-xorg-video-ati with no problems and playing DVDs over NFS works without any visible lagging/artifacts/errors.

The system has 512Mb to itself, and the rest set aside for Xen guests. Right now I have six instances of Sarge running with 64Mb each. Things are nice and snappy :) (Since debootstrap failed on the 64 bit install of Sarge I had to download pre-made Sarge images, but still a painless process.)

Talking of Xen I found a weird problem where when starting up a new Xen guest the host would lose networking. I think this is an artifact of the NVidia 4 chipset - but adding irqpoll to the boot flag(s) seems to have fixed it.

OK enough about my new toy(s). Happy Holidays

(No complaints about my new cheesy Christmas Logo yet. Result!)

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Lets go dancing on the backs of the bruised

26 December 2006 21:50

My Christmas day was primarily spent at home watching Red Dwarf.

Apart from that I made new releases of xen-shell and xen-tools.

I was suprised to recieve a sudden flurry of bug reports. No less than ten bugs reported by two users in one day! Still I fixed most of them and made a new release.

It was nice to notice Isaac Clerencia writing about using xen-tools for automated testing. The idea has occurred to me before: Create a fresh Xen installation of Debian then run a test suite and trash the system afterwards. I even setup a test Yawns builder for a while.

Are people finding interesting users for xen-tools? I'd love to have some use-cases, and more user-feedback is always appreciated. Feel free to get in touch or comment here.

Personally I use a few Xen guests on my home LAN and I regularly create new Sarge images for building backported Xen packages. Only recently did I move my home cfengine setup onto a domU.

In other news I recently received a copy of Programming Ruby from my Amazon wishlist, I'm learning a lot about Ruby and I think I'm in love. The only downside is the mental confusion I experience when I see "@variable" and "$variable" used. I am too wedded to Perl to stop thinking "array" and "string" respectively.

I should find a toy project to write in Ruby to get used to it. Right now nothing occurs, but I'm sure it is just a matter of time.

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You say those thousand things

29 December 2006 21:50

Only three things to say today:

Second anniversary

Today marks the second anniversary of the Debian Administration website.

(I think that this is the first public mention of my intention to setup the site. It was the earliest I could find anyway.)

Edinburgh Trivia

Doing my own small bit for Debconf I went for a walk on Christmas Day.

For two years I've lived in the area of Edinburgh known as Leith. (Famous for being a port, and being a port of call for hookers)

During that time I've taken buses, and walked, up and down Leith walk hundreds of times. Almost every time I do I notice a large chimney by The Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre.. The top 20/30ft of the chimney can be seen from peeking over the top of local buildings, assuming you're not blocked by other buildings. And now?

Now I know what it sits upon.

My little adventure in getting to know the city I've been living in; I wanted to find the bottom of the chimney and see what it was attached to. So if anybody coming to Debconf next year gets massively lost and curious about a large chimney en route to my house .. I can tell them all about it.

It is the little things in life ..

Xen Shell

I'm not sure that there are many people using this, the freshmeat listing has a few subscribers but I'm never sure how well that translates. (Plus of course nobody rated the software so it might be they hate it?). Anyway there are almost certainly far fewer users of the shell than the main xen-tools package - but as of last night the shell now allows you to control more than one Xen instance.

This is quite a large change, since previously it explicitly only supported one user controlling one Xen instance. Expect a new release shortly once I've tested it more, and updated the documentation.

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