In which I actually learn things. Who knew?

This thing’s due for an update. I have a couple minutes free in class. Therefore, update. And it’s a something.

Last week, I officially started what I term my geek training. 6 eternities and a forever later, I walked into the first class of a computer systems technician program at Algonquin College. And in that first week and a half, I actually learned something useful–including a couple different keyboard shortcuts for Linux I didn’t actually know existed. Considering how much time I spend in Linux, that’s a something on its own.

The thing I think I’m going to absolutely adore about this program, though, is it’s almost entirely hands-on. For instance: I’m sitting in a Windows course right now. There’s a theory component to it, which is why I’m sitting here writing this (it helps that he’s talking about things I already know), but then there’s a hands-on, lab component to it–where I get to install Windows in a VM, play with it, break it, and generally prove I know how to do the things we just talked about in theory. The same thing applies for the course I’m taking on Linux–which falls right into part of where I want to be anyway, so that works. Our theory classes, plus our lab work, involves connecting to a Linux server on campus–the server runs an instance of Ubuntu, if you’re curious what I get to play with a couple times a week.

That was a problem, I think, in school environments I was in before–my first run at college, and then the upgrading I did last year to get into this program. That was almost all theory, so you had people going on and on about junk and you just got to sit there, kick back, listen and try your damnedest not to fall asleep. Now, they let me play. And they test me on what I’m playing with–so I break all the things, fix all the things, and get graded on it. Only thing it’s missing is getting paid for it. But, I’ll take it. And now, I suppose I ought get back to paying attention to this professor’s droning…

There will be a better entry eventually. But hey, first time since October. Work with me some. College geek is in college.

In which cPanel and CentOS actually, uh, kind of do what they should?

I’m still trying to figure out if it’s just because somebody decided to smack me in the head a little too hard, or I woke up in an alternate reality at some point, or what. But an interestingly weird thing happened over the course of the last couple days. I asked cPanel and CentOS very nicely to do something for little innocent old me, and the server didn’t actually catch fire.

A little background, for those of you who may be almost as sadistic as me. Installing Icecast on a CPanel server, any version, any time, used to be a right royal bitch. Compile the thing from source, curse as it spits out 80 million missing dependencies, compile those dependencies from source, curse as it still can’t find them–by the way, /usr/local/lib64 being in root’s environment path apparently does not help when the configure script is freaking braindead, then spend the next 5-10 minutes tracking down all those dependencies, finding the exact shared object the configure script wants to reference, then symlink the whole damn batch to a directory wherein the damn script wouldn’t bitch. If I didn’t occasionally *use* Icecast, just setting up the dependency structure for the compile process would warrant hourly billing for the poor bastard who asked for it. But since I do, and hey, it was an excuse to flex muscles I haven’t needed to flex since the last time I smashed Gentoo, I figured oh what the hell. So Icecast existed, compiled from source, dependencies and all. and I kept 80 million notes for the next time, just in case. And then the wickedest weirdest awesomest thing happened.

I’m not sure if it’s a CentOS 6 thing, or the version of CPanel I’m running, or hell, maybe the OS devs just finally decided let’s update a bunch of packages that we haven’t actually updated in at least a year and a half (Did I mention I hate binary OS’s for that?). But on a random thinggy, I thought hey, let’s run a theory. They’ve had time to fix their shit, and they’re not Debian, so maybe. So I skip the tracking down of my usual source dependency packages, and go straight to the configure process. It falls on the floor. Apparently, the server has ogg-vorbis support (hey, that’s an improvement right there), but it’s 0.6.x. Awesome. Wicked. Nifty. Cool. But Icecast wants 1.x. Well fuck me running. So I’m all ready to go tarball hunting. I’ve got links, I’ve got references to other links, I’ve got ice cold (no, literally ice cold) caffeine, bring it, bitch. I do the usual dance. make sure my links haven’t broken in a year and a half, make sure nothing was unexpectedly updated and I need to do something slightly different this time around, and I find something so new it still has that new geek smell. Where before, the CentOS package manager absolutely hated to do anything remotely involving Icecast and its dependencies, this time, I was fed exactly the command I needed, in exactly the format I expected, that I’m pretty sure I tried a year and a half ago that made just about everything fall down around my ears. But, hey. Maybe. I didn’t find this in Google last time I looked, so maybe. It would certainly make me less dependent on vodka, if nothing else. So I do the do, and suddenly, I’ve got updated libraries the configure script likes, and a couple packages I’m pretty sure the box I set this all up from via source last year is still missing. And because CentOS did whatever CentOS does with it, the configure script *should*, God willing, find the damn things without me needing to perform minor surgery. So I run it, kick back, and hope the booze store’s still open just in case this thing blows up–it wasn’t, by the way. And the thing not only compiles, but compiles like a dream. Thing threw less warnings on this box than it did last year.

I nearly fainted. CPanel doing what I say is a rare occurance when it comes to actual, significant admin things. CentOS doing what I say is even more rare, for anything, administrative or not. Both of them cooperating on the same task, at the same time, and neither’s arm needing to be twisted? That alternate universe theory sounds better and better all the time. And then I go and install something like Logwatch (believe it or not, the server was not handed to me with that installed), and I run smack into CPanel’s damned yum.conf exclude line. Okay, right universe. CPanel just wanted to mess with my head. Did I mention I hate it when CPanel wants to mess with my head?

Linux, virtualized. The hard way. Twice.

Every so often, I’ll consider finding some new and creative way to install Gentoo, my Linux distribution of choice. And sometimes, I’ll do it in such a way that it actually doesn’t blow up in my face. I’ve been trying to convince Shane to give it a try, but he hasn’t got an extra machine he can clean out and turn into a test platform. What he did have, though, was an instalation of VMWare and lots of free time on his hands. So it was high past time to shove an OS inside an OS.

The actual instalation process, for the most part, wasn’t a whole lot different from the steps I followed to install it on the laptop. But there were a few subtle differences in what was required. And naturally, they were just tricky enough that the easiest way to implement those differences was to blow the instalation away and start over. So we did, probably two or three times. On the third try, we managed to actually get the thing mostly up and running. By this point, we were very nearly on easy street. So I decided to do the exact same thing locally.

My install required a little bit more creativity, mostly because I was also using it as an excuse at guessing which VM settings would play a little bit nicer with our instalations. I got mine up and running on the fourth try, or thereabouts, and threw the modified settings at the first attempt at a Gentoo install. Now, with both machines up and running and not threatening to explode, we could play.

Shane’s heavily into the whole beta testing thing, so we went on a dependancy hunt to trick out his install with the requirements for at least one game he’s been testing. Then, we threw Gnome at it, and while that took its time installing, we threw a small party. The new and exciting part of all this was over by now–virtual Gentoo plays just as nicely as nonvirtual Gentoo, post-install. So now comes breakage.

I had no idea exactly how hard Gentoo, even in a VM, was to break. Or how easy it was to fix when it did. We’d try this or that nifty little trick, compile something, and watch it fall over. And in about 10 minutes at best, we had the why, the when, the how, and a fix was on its way down. The two things we didn’t intentionally break are apparently fairly common, or at least, simplistic issues–apparently, kernel 2.6.36 is still way, way too knew. As in things that depend on the kernel sources being installed–hello, NVidia drivers–fail quite fantastically at the compile stage. Same with the latest current stable version of Speakup, which escentially meant if we wanted the instalation to talk at us, we weren’t about to be using that kernel version. There’s apparently such thing as *too* bleeding edge. Who knew?

Another potentially kernel-related almost failure isn’t actually what I’d call breakage, but it is kind of annoying–and equally not either of our falt, lucky for us. This is the more common/known/widely experienced issue–when you run certain commands from the console or a remote session, it throws an “Unknown HZ Value!” error. It doesn’t actually break, and I’m assuming the results you get from that command are what you’d expect to get, but the error, or notice if you’d rather, regularly makes an appearance. We traced the problem to Procps, a utility package that contains several system monitoring programs among other things. I was about ready to report it, then saw it was already taken care of–hence the more widely experienced/common-ness of this annoyance. This is not something I’ll be fixing any time soon, but the activity so far as this bug report shows indicates people far more experienced than me with Gentoo, kernel tweeking and all the fun crap that goes with have it well in hand. Or at least are faking it very well. So now, we just sit back and see what else decides to implode.

The install actually went a little easier than I was hoping, if only because hey, I needed an excuse to break things on a more permanent basis. But, oh well. The OS works, on both machines, and any lingering loose ends we can safely reject any and all responsibility for. For my next trick, I’d like to see if I can install MacOS on the VM. I’d be interested in seeing how badly that breaks. In the meantime, time to go play fix the video card. Thank god for caffeine.

I have met satan, and it is CPanel.

I pride myself on being a geek. A very patient geek, even. But even still, the more I read about CPanel, the more I grew to hate it. And then, I got a chance to indirectly work with it. Now, I’ve come to despise it with the passion of a hundred thousand suns.

I started out helping Shane throw together some kind of a fix for a problem he was having with his WordPress installs. Or rather, several small problems that, when lumped together, became one very hugely gigantic ball of oh my god what the hell am I doing. That was well over 3 hours ago. From there, we ended up blowing away the WordPress install, trying our damnedest to get it to reinstall, banging our heads against Apache and Suexec, and generally coming this close to screaming. My poking at Suexec config files, at least those I could find in that not so cleverly disorganized mess CPanel calls a directory structure, told me it should be working the way it’s supposed to. But when WordPress went to do something as simple as generate a config file, it crapped out with permission errors. Okay, this wasn’t how I invisioned spending an evening, but hey, what the hell else was I gonna do?

So I poked around some more, and discovered when CPanel installs Apache by default, it compiles things in a not very Suexec-friendly way. And convincing it to recompile, as I learned tonight, in such a way that it would actually do what we want without puking all over the place first, well, it wasn’t about to happen instantly. Apparently, something within CPanel tells it it’s alright to slap a random file in /etc to prevent Apache from actually being shut down, even in situations wherein it needs to be shut down–such as, for instance, to be recompiled. Finding that file, then finding out what it’s doing there, then finding out if just plain ripping it out would break anything, took a bit of digging. Then, after much hair pulling with both the web and command line interfaces to CPanel, we eventually, finally, managed somehow to explain what it is we were trying to do. Getting to that point, of course, just had to involve a tech support person from the hosting company who wasn’t a whole lot more clued in than we were–par for the course when you’re us. So we decided to take a random shot in the dark and rip out that file, then try desperately to convince CPanel that yes, it was perfectly alright to do what we’re asking it to do.

After about 2.5 hours of screwing with it, we finally have CPanel singing the right tune. It does its thing, eventually recompiling both apache and PHP to build in support for what we want to do–PHP as CGI through Suexec. Great, so now we just pray to god it works. By this time, my brain is pretty much sawdust, and we still have the initial issue I was trying to fix before all this to work out. Craptacular. So we get to doing that, and thank the freaking gods that goes through without a problem–now that we managed to exhaust just about everything we had access to to get to that point.

At the end of all this, I’ve come to a very important–well, to me, anyway–decision. If ever I find myself in a situation where I’m forced to use CPanel, I will not walk, but run terrifiedly screaming in the exact opposite direction as though this guy was after me. Faster, even, as I swear that thing is the software reincarnation of Satan. If you’re even remotely technical, at all, stay the hell away from CPanel. You *will* lose years off your life. And develop a strange craving for alcohol. Speaking of, where’d I put mine?

Linode goes RAM crazy, prompts me to start considering migration.

Everyone knows about my love afair with Linux. Specificly, Gentoo. Unfortunately, it being a source-based distribution means escentially any system maintenance task–like, say, installing a new program or updating an existing one–is potentially going to be a bit of a memory hog. Hence why I started using Linode for a lot of my playing around work–they give me an environment I don’t need to worry about breaking, the tools with which to potentially break it, and a price tag that doesn’t end up breaking my wallet. And, as of yesterday, they’re handing out more memory with which to break things. Now, one of my VPS’s on Linode presently has more memory than my only VPS on DreamHost, for about the same price. Woopsies. You know what that means.

It’s once again time to consider tossing around that age old debate. To slowly move everything away from DH, or not to. That is the eternal question. I’ve been pretty happy with their overall performance for the last 5 years, moving from shared to now VPS hosting during that time–and, yes, branching out to Linode as it’s been needed. They’ve had a few network issues, and I’ve had to prod tech support in the rear end a time or two, but they’ve been decent. In comparison, I’ve almost never actually needed to talk with Linode’s tech support–most server related issues I can fix myself, and most hardware/network related issues they’re usually aware of before I am. Still, when needed, both DreamHost and Linode have been pretty quick with their assistance. Why do I still stick with DH? Simply put, the manually editing of Apache‘s configuration files. I’ve done it before, on a minor skale or two. Much more than that and I fear it may result in irreparable brain damage. Similarly, setting up and maintaining an email system is probably second most likely to give me brain damage–even if I do decide to go with Postfix and have a pretty semi-nifty solution to the general, day to day administering of things like creating new users, etc. I could, presumedly, just let Google Apps handle email, but there’s something to be said about actually being able to control a semi-important system like that myself. And, if I did move entirely self-hosted, I’d probably want that.

So, while I figure out if and/or when I should start this whole migrating to my own server thing, I fully intend to take complete advantage of the extra memory being dumped on me by one of my awesome hosts. Which means those folks I’m currently hosting on one of those servers? Yeah, I’m looking at you. You’re about to get a performance boost. Happy 7th birthday, Linode. Even if it is a day late and a dollar short.

The update I was putting off doing. No, not that kind.

There’s probably an actual, about me update that needs doing at some point–probably around the same time I start having something not rant-ish to talk about. Which means probably after I figure out where this college thing’s gonna land me. In the meantime, have a techy type update. Folks not fans of linux can skip it if they so choose–there’s a little something for everyone up here somewhere.

One of the biggest knocks against Gentoo is the fact it’s pretty much entirely built from source. Which escentially means it’s not a matter of just hit install, twiddle your thumbs for a minute and a half, hit okay and go on about your business. It also means if there’s an update that has the potential of breaking things, the breakage tends to be a little bit on the larger than life side. So you don’t tend to do the update unless you’re sure you can block off a bit of time for any required troubleshooting afterwards. I’ve been using my gentoo instalation as a sort of means of learning my way around linux in both a technical and non-technical aspect. Which, is largely why it’s not yet made it to my production machine–if I break something horribly, which has yet to actually happen, I prefer to be able to just work at fixing it whenever and not have to bother with needing to borrow someone else’s machine for the important stuff. Although, using this machine for the test bed might have made this most recent update go just a tiny bit faster.

I don’t perform a complete system update very often–usually once every couple weeks, if I think about it. The rest of the time I spend tinkering with what I’ve got installed and seeing if I can get it to play just that little tiny bit nicer. So, this last update ended up being a pretty healthy one, including upgrades to several core libraries and utilities. thankfully, this update didn’t touch anything that belongs to the Gnome desktop interface, so I wasn’t left waiting all day for that to get around to finish compiling. Or, you’d think anyway.

turns out it did come with an update to the library that deals with processing and manipulating PNG-formatted images, known as libpng. While not a majorly huge update, 1.2 to 1.4, it was enough that I ended up being in for a rather long night anyway. I have a couple packages installed on the server for image handling outside of the gnome environment, as requirements for things like PHP–I’d planned to run a tiny webserver on my laptop, mostly for a testing environment if I didn’t want to take up my webspace with a project that may not exist for more than a week. One of those utilities also got some love. Only problem is when I went to compile it, it was nice enough to throw me this error in return. Seems it was hardcoded to look instinctively for libpng 1.2, which was no longer present on the system. Oopsies.

In comes one of Gentoo’s more popular utilities–revdep-rebuild, which escentially goes back through your entire dependancy tree and recompiles anything that could possibly be missing a library, or providing a library something else is missing. It’d been reported on that forum thread and on the Gentoo mailing list that that utility alone might not fix me, so I’d escentially blocked out the next couple days to diagnose, triage, clean out and recompile just about everything under the sun manually. If that didn’t fix me there were bigger problems here than I’m qualified to deal with. So I had that utility run, and surprisingly, it didn’t explode all over the place.

It found both image handling utilities outside of the Gnome environment, and another 96 packages inside that environment to rebuild. Fun times. So, 98 packages and 30 hours later–it’s a 5-year-old HP laptop I’m testing this on, remember–the thing managed to piece itself together without first collapsing in on itself. And I only had some minor cleanup work to do afterwards.

I found three interesting surprises in dealing with this latest round of coax the software. Gentoo is an awesomely cool OS to goof off with. If I wanted to start doing production-ready things with it, like I’m doing for both my servers–this website may end up moving to one of said servers at some point, it could probably run circles around this machine–yes, even if it’s on a 5-year-old box. Second, the OS handles itself supremely well during major rebuilding tasks–operations like this, if I attempted it on Ubuntu, would have probably resulted in epically catastrophic failure. And, most importantly, I don’t care which OS you’re using, rebuilding of even a small part of Gnome sucks. Royally. Just thought it needed to be said. But, at least if I have to rebuild Gnome I know it’ll probably not result in mass amounts of hair pulling. Now, if I can just get around to wrapping my head around the Apache configuration files, I’ll be in business.

RSS from anywhere may be a reality for me.

And it didn’t even take me banging my head against Google Reader. I’ve been looking for something portable to replace my current favourite, an RSS plugin for Outlook 2003. Mostly because, on days like today when I’m not sitting in front of my computer, as much as I love being able to have direct access to my feeds in Outlook, it helps me all of not at all at the moment. And I might have found it–at least a temporary fix, until it breaks or I find something better.

The software, written in python and running on any OS that therefore supports the language–I have it on Linux at the moment, is just called Planet. It takes one or more RSS feeds, such as the feed from this very blog, and merges them into a single HTML file. The design looks not a whole lot different from most blogs–the entries are sorted latest first, by date, and optionally by feed, with individual headings indicating the start of a new segment. It looks incredibly customizeable, although I’ve not yet actually gotten much time to play with it–a disadvantage of all my current subscriptions being, as said before, on my computer at home which is precisely where I’m not.

All the HTML, XML, and other such files are built dynamicly every update from templates. Those templates contain the raw HTML or XML code, plus a few variables understood by the program for printing things such as the feed name, entry title, when it was posted, etc. The program itself can be scheduled to run via Linux’s crontab command, or the Mac OS equivalent. Or, if you’re insane enough to have managed to get python running on Windows, you can suffer even more brain damage and update it via the task scheduler. I wouldn’t recommend it-windows has a nasty little habit of breaking task scheduler, but it’s your brain.

The only thing that would make me not recommend it for non-techy users is absolutely no problem for me–entirely manual instalation and configuration. Everything from determining how long between checks for new content–enter the crontab utility–to the addition of new feeds absolutely must be done by hand. Personally, even though it’s not really a huge problem for me, I’d still have much rathered it give you the option of just tossing it an OPML file and letting it draw the feed info from that. But then, I also have well over 100 feeds to transfer over when I get the time. Still, for what it does it looks highly promising. And, it can always go away if and when I find something better. But for now, it beats what’s currently out there for hosted solutions (No, FeedMyInbox, I don’t want to pay you $16 for the privelege of being able to have you email all my feeds to me. Sorry.). So, I’ll give it a try for a bit and either really love it or tos it out the nearest window. In the meantime, I have back entries of feeds to go through when I get home anyway, so I can take my time with the moving everything over to the new software. And it’ll definitely take its time.

When your network takes a crap, and takes your email with it.

At some point during the night last night, and rather inconveniently after Jessica and I had run off to bed and so I couldn’t immediately determine that it was a network issue, this blog, a rarely updated–and, in fact, rather neglected for a couple weeks–political blog, and our email among other things, decided to take a rather gigantic crap on our front lawn. The first ever self-hosted version of the blog–link’s over there in the right sidebar–was started on this network, hosted by DreamHost, in January of 2006. Since then, I’ve always had something going over here. If not a blog, then some little utility or web app I was playing around with just because I can. Or a forum I was testing for one of the RP projects I’m either involved in or dedicating resources to. So I’ve been with them a while.

In that time, I think I’ve only ever really personally encountered… maybe 4 major, “OMG I can’t access a thing” type failures. It may, in fact, even be less than 4. So when I woke up to a screen full of “can’t connect” messages (thanks, Outlook), I was more than a little bit surprised–albeit temporarily. And, admittedly, more than a little bit frustrated–emails I should have received overnight hadn’t actually hit my mailbox yet. Once I managed to get my end of the cleanup out of the way, though, I started looking into something I hadn’t really looked at since, well, the last time DreamHost’s network went and crapped out.

I’ve been eyeing on and off, usually while the blog etc is offline, the idea of moving most if not all of my various outlets fully away from a managed environment. I’ve been running the DH VPS for a few months now, plus I’ve been running two of my own, unmanaged VPS’s for a couple years. Mostly, it’s been a sort of learning environment for me–see how many different ways I can break the system, then reinstall it, and start all over again. And yet, every time something like this happens, I always toss around the idea for a few days of actually expanding my knowledge overall of the Linux environment, and at the same time put into development my own email, and possibly web, solution–one independant from any particular web host. But I never actually get around to doing that.

I’ve done much of the actual research already–the most likely candidate for when I actually decide to take that leap will probably end up being one that centers around Postfix and MySQL, now I just need to find the energy, motivation, and maybe get frustrated enough with my current setup that I finally just say screw it and go with it. It’s probably gonna suck, but at least then I’ll be able to actually figure out for myself what’s up and died on me. Meanwhile, hey, DH, can we get a more stable network please? I really don’t like being forced into considering enduring the necessary brain damage to actually set something like that up. At least not at such a young age.

Precisely why I’m a linux user, and a Gentoo user specificly.

A couple months ago, when they released version 2.10 of Glibc into the unstable tree for Gentoo, I thought it’d be fun to try rebuilding everything right then so that I might get what was left of the old 2.9 version off my system. Didn’t quite go as well as I thought–in fact, one of the programs I use fairly frequently when I’m not home, absolutely refused to compile against the new Glibc. Well, crap. There just went that. So I filed this bug report, and expected not a whole lot to get done about it–I’m probably one of a very small subset of users who actually still run that program, right? So clearly it won’t be a priority. I mean, that’s what I’m used to–you send Microsoft an error report, or any of the Windows program authors a similar report, they more often than not just sort of ignore it. I was perfectly ready for them to do that here. I’d even started researching alternative programs I could make use of while on my coming up road trip. Then, in with the other couple hundred of last night’s emails, I get this.

17 Nov 2009; Dawid Węgliński (cla) bitchx-1.1-r4.ebuild,+files/1.1/bitchx-1.1-open-mode.patch:Pass mode to O_CREAT bug #285374

It’s probably not directly related to what I reported. At least, I didn’t think so. So I wasn’t in a real big hurry to test it out. I waited until the automatic synchronisation went off this morning to pick up the new changes, and this afternoon, out of random boredom/curiosity/whatever, I tried yet again to compile the thing. And, surprising the hell out of me, it actually didn’t fall over sideways. I’m really not used to that.

that’s something I literally never saw, like, at all in all my years using, writing about, complaining about, trying to fix, abruptly breaking, and eventually reinstalling Windows. I have no idea how many times I naively hit the “send error report” button on this or that crashed program, utility, or the OS itself, thinking “Hey, Microsoft might get to fixing this.”, only to install several Windows updates that, yep, didn’t actually fix it. So actually seeing an update come across my desk that, wouldn’t you know, actually fixes a problem? Yeah, that’s new. And it’s definitely not hurting my consideration for putting more and more time into using Gentoo locally.

Explanation: BitchX, BX for short, is a Linux based client for connecting to IRC (Internet Relay Chat). I have no idea why they call it BitchX. But, it’s a decent enough program for what I use it for, so I also don’t particularly care.

I’ll stick with Linux, thanks.

Out of random curiosity last year, I started to tinker with Linux on a local machine–specificly, a 5-year-old HP laptop that wasn’t really being used for a whole lot else. Not really being willing to bother considering what I could manage to lose and what I might want to keep–there was 4 years of crap on that laptop pre-install, I just pulled everything off that HD and onto this machine, and went about the business of installing Gentoo. I know, at least three of you are laughing at me for having made that decision. I like a challenge, okay? Since then, I’ve been playing, tweeking, updating, tweeking, and playing some more just to see how long it takes me to get everything working. Or, how long it takes me to break things so horribly it doesn’t even boot, whichever comes first.

There’s a point to this, I swear. The thing that drew me initially to Linux is the fact that it can run on damn near anything with the right amount of tweeking. And the people behind it actually encourage it. I mean, the fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt either but still. I can dig up an old Pentium II, hook it up, pray to god it has an ethernet port on the thing so I can plug it into the router, and probably find a current version of Linux that’ll run on it. Windows and Mac OS can’t really make that claim. Hell, the advent of Vista broke most machines that could have run XP just fine a couple years ago. And Apple’s been trying for, like, ever to find a way to restrict people to buying their hardware if you want their OS.

They’re trying it again, this time in the form of an update that apparently removes Intel Atom chipset support from the OS. While they point out it probably won’t take very long before someone comes up with a patch for it, they also sort of halfway gloss over the entire point as to why I won’t be buying a Mac anytime soon, against the multitude of advice that’ll no doubt be offered to me by Mac and Mac OS users alike. The OS can run on damn near any Intel chipset out there. And it even needs little to no modification to actually do so. You would think, since it means selling more copies of their OS, and since it means they can take even more market share away from Windows and Linux, they’d be all over it. Apparently you’d be wrong.

I don’t like being told what I’m allowed to do with something I already paid for. That’s why I don’t own an iPhone, and why once I’m more comfortable with Linux I’ll probably be switching from Windows entirely. If Apple’s going to insist that if I want to run their OS, whether I have space for it or not I absolutely must buy their hardware, I’ll stick to Linux, thanks. Or, if not Linux, someone who’s not trying to work against me.

How’d I get here?

I keep threatening to do that post about what the hell happened to me since the last time I was actively blogging (Um, LJ-ing, perhaps?). Well, consider this my attempt at doing so. I’ll warn you in advance there will probably be things that get missed–it *has* been about 4 months, after all.

For starters, there were more than a few trips across the Canada/US border between myself and Jessica, who’s rarely updated LJ is over here for anyone who doesn’t already read her. Things in that department I don’t think can get much better. Well, beyond the elimination of the border but eh, that’s coming. Beyond that, I’ve been doing a lot more experimentation with Gentoo, my for the moment linux distribution of choice. I’d messed around very briefly with Debian and Ubuntu, but couldn’t get quite what I wanted out of those distributions. That, plus I rather like a challenge and Gentoo definitely provides that. I kept an old HP laptop around for the purposes of experimentation–and, actually, it was the same laptop I did most of my blogging on in the old days–so I can break it 6 ways from Sunday and not really be set back more than a couple hours’ tinkering. Works perfectly fine for me. In addition to that, I’ve been continuing to pound pavement in hopes of landing me a job. Not an easy thing to do when every day the unemployment line gets longer, but we manage. This in between trips to catch up with family, because… well, you know, they don’t tend to like it when you avoid them for long stretches at a time.

Then there was the move. I’d spent the last year and a half or so on employment insurance while I looked for work, thus enabling to keep my rather nice–even if I do say so myself–apartment in Ottawa’s west end. Not having found anything though, it became necessary for me to find somewhere else to call home lest I end up going very broke very quickly. So, on October 23rd, everything I own and a few things I forgot I owned got stuffed into one box or another, and carted an hour and a half away to this, a basement apartment who’s upstairs neighbour has perhaps one of the creakiest floors I’ve heard in my life. Now, I’m still looking for work, still finding time to do a little geeking, and still–at least, as of about 2 weeks from yesterday–making trips across the border when I have the time, money and transportation. Not a whole lot has changed, save for my mailing address–which I’m still finding things that didn’t get the notification of that change–and the fact some things in life just plain aren’t as convenient as they were a month ago. But, win some, lose some. That be life.

Once I have the space in this apartment, and everything I’ll immediately need to do so out of boxes and set up, I plan to get back into tweeking the laptop and making things work just that much better. And, with a little luck and a small miracle, it might result in me accidentally coming up on a skill or three I can put in a resume. Never hurts to say you can do something, particularly when that something didn’t require you shell out money you don’t have for a college/university education. Of course, if I don’t get that out of it, then maybe I’ll just have a computer I can use should I ever decide to wipe windows off this one. Either way, I can’t find a down side here.

Well, that’s the summer and part of spring in a nutshell. Not very exciting, just… chaotic, really. Semi-organized chaos, but still. And if this is any indication, the next couple months don’t plan to be any different. Which, surprisingly, is how I like it. Can’t very well go researching new and somewhat impressive things to buy if you don’t have time to, after all.

last weekend, the past week, and what happens when I have free time.

As anyone who follows my twitter feed will probably already know, last weekend went actually quite well with myself and Jessica (samari76). She arived safely on Friday, and we spent the majority of that day just hanging around the apartment, talking. she ended up being a little more tired than she thought she’d be, so she caught a couple hours’ sleep while I came out here to finish up with checking email and the like. We ended up just relaxing and enjoying ourselves for the rest of that evening. I threw together a little something for supper, and we just sort of talked and did a little listening to music. Saturday we slept in a little, and took our time getting to that point most people would call awake. Again, there was more just hanging out, and talking. We ended up ordering out for supper, after which we got into a bottle of lemmon rum I’d picked up a couple days before leaving Pembroke.

It was actually before we started drinking, though, when we got a call that my grandpa had been taken to the Ottawa hospital; he was having issues with his apendix and they weren’t sure if it would require surgery or not. We stayed up most of the night waiting for news, but after being told my parents were enroute to Ottawa just behind him to make sure he was being looked after, we hadn’t heard anything. Trish IMed me at that point to say she hadn’t heard anything new, really, either. We ended up aranging to get together for breakfast the next day, since we’d not hung out in a while anyway and Jess was looking forward to seeing her again. Well, that, plus since we were waiting for information it made more sense to all be in one place when it came in. We ended up going to bed about 4:00 that morning, getting up again at an impressive 9:00. Cabbing it over there, we hung out with Trish, her husband and both her brothers for much of the morning. She made an awesome breakfast, which kind of reminded me a little of something you’d be able to order from any decent restaurant on Jessica’s side of the border. Family started to trickle in shortly after, and we learned he wasn’t actually going to get the surgery right yet; they wanted to see if they couldn’t treat it with antibiotics first, which kind of makes sense to me. I mean, the guy *is* in his 80’s. No sense in putting him through a surgery that may or may not be required. We got to see a goodly portion of my family, though. And Jess got to meet a few people we couldn’t get around to visiting the last time we were both in that neighbourhood. We all sat around and talked, the older guys watching nascar on TV and everyone with something better to do just generally conversating/trying not to hear it. They ordered pizza and wings, some of which we both helped ourselves to (Hey, breakfast was good, but it’s pizza and wings. Come on.). We spent the rest of the day just sort of hanging out. After everyone left, Trish, her husband, both brothers, plus myself and Jessica decided to go and check out one of the local carnivals in town that weekend. We got there just in time for it to start packing up, of course, but at least Jess got to get a brief look at some of what goes on around here this time of year. We didn’t get home until about 9:00 or so, and stayed up for a bit longer just generally talking and the like.

Monday was a very low key day; we didn’t even get dressed until that evening. we just enjoyed our last day together for a while, and recovered sort of from the day before. I took Jess to the bus station that night, and she made it across the border all in one piece, luggage and all. As for me, I went back home and did that thing where I fall into bed until 6 or 7 the next morning. I spent the rest of the week going through my usual routine; looking for work, not finding much, talking to Jess, and occasionally cursing technology. I did eventually finally hear that my grandpa was back home and doing well, the antibiotics seeming to be working thus far, so that was one less thing on my list of things to be paying attention to.

One thing I did finally get around to this week, that I’d been threatening to do before, is installing Gentoo linux on the formerly retired laptop. It actually didn’t take too long when you break it down to time spent actually working on the system; the longest part of it all was the waiting for things to compile. I had it installed and running by yesterday morning, and talking by yesterday afternoon after I learned I missed a step in building the kernel so had to do that all over again. Lovely. I got that fixed up though, and it behaves beautifully now. I ended up playing around with Speakup, one of the screenreading packages available for linux, a bit yesterday and again this morning. Now, I’m waiting for the various Gnome packages to install, including its screenreader, so I can have a little bit of a look at that. Judging by the sheer number of packages that are needing instalation, and the fact they all need to be compiled, this could take a while. In the meantime, I have free time on my hands that I’m sure I’ll put to good use ordering groceries. Or sleeping. Or something. I may or may not have missed something in my update. If I did, I’m sure Jess will remind me… she’s good like that. As for now, though, I’m so gone it’s not funny.

And the Mac advantage is…

… Definitely not the lack of malware. At least, not anymore according to Symantec. They say they believe they’ve discovered the first ever Mac botnet. According to the article (geek.com), it’s supposedly already infected several (I think the article said thousands?) of macs, which are apparently being remotely controlled by a third party, though not necessarily the person(s) who created the malware in the first place. This sort of walks all over one of the major supposed benefits many mac users throw up in the faces of anyone still using Windows, that being thelack of any real need for antivirus/antimalware software. If Symantec is able to actually confirm the report, folks are gonna have to find a new excuse to switch from Windows. At least, if they’re not switching to linux, who still remains malware free to this point.

Why linux is for the epic motherfucking win.

From a thread regarding a speech-friendly installer for another Linux distro:

There’s definitely interest. I’d even learn the process for doing that for the sole purpose of contributing. Thanks for looking into it, William.

—–Original Message—–
From: speakup-bounces@braille.uwo.ca [mailto:speakup-bounces@braille.uwo.ca]
On Behalf Of William Hubbs
Sent: March 14, 2009 10:29 PM
To: Speakup is a screen review system for Linux.
Subject: Re: Speakup-enabled ArchLinux install CD, version 2!

—–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
Hash: SHA1

Hi all,

I would like to get this done on gentoo, I just haven’t attempted to coordinate it with release engineering yet. My plan is for our latest version of speakup and espeakup to go stable, then I will work with release engineering to get it put onto our official cds.

I’m not sure how to build a minimal cd myself, but if there is interest, I can ask release engineering about how that would be done for testing.

On Sat, Mar 14, 2009 at 10:10:59PM -0400, James Homuth wrote:
Careful. Yall are making me consider playing with Arch Linux if only because of its Gentoo-like qualities, minus compiling. This is, IMHO, exactly the kind of CD that particular distro needs. Would anyone mind > if I forward this thread to gentoo’s accessibility project?

I loves me some open source community talk, yo. Try doing *that* with Windows, or Mac.

PS: William = team lead for gentoo‘s accessibility project. Also known as the guys who maintain screenreader software’s compatibility with that particular flavour of linux. Also, keep in mind, that entire discussion took place on a publicly accessible mailing list over the course of a few hours. You are not going to get that from Micro$oft.

And now, for a new level of geekery.

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been toying around with Gentoo linux off and on for a while, and have been considering running it locally for quite some time. Today, well actually last night, out of boredom I decided to burn a CD image of their latest release. I’d of stuck with the image you gave me mike (lightvortex), but it was about 3 years old judging by what I could see of it and didn’t burn properly. Sorry! So, I burned that particular image, and went about the process of testing it out on my laptop (hint: 5 years old, almost 6, very minimalistic – 512 MB RAM, 40 GB HD, etc). And with absolutely no fussing on my end whatsoever, which is good seeing as there’s absolutely 0 accessibility on that particular live CD, she worky and she worky like beautiful.

So I fired it up, got myself to the command line with absolutely 0 feedback from the computer (I love having had previous linux experience), and set up the CD so I could remote into it from this machine. That took all of maybe a minute and a half to do. From there, it was just log into the laptop (or, rather, log into the CD in the laptop), and poke around. I could have probably gone right to the instalation procedure from there with absolutely no fuss whatsoever. And would have, except I hadn’t had a damn thing pulled off that laptop yet that I wanted to save. Now, keep in mind I’ve had this machine since about October of 07. Since then, the laptop’s been in a state of semi-retirement, only ever really being used when the router decides it wants to enter into a fit of noncooperation. Since the router’s in the bedroom and the desktop isn’t, the laptop became my troubleshooting tool. But I still never bothered to pull what I thought I’d want to save off of it. So I hadn’t planned on formatting it at all until that was done. Last night, after I logged into the system and poked around, I mounted the internal HD so I could access it from inside the live CD environment. And then I downloaded the whole damn thing, Windows OS and all, into a folder on this HD. Took me the better part of 24 hours to do it (I started it at about 1:00 this morning and it only finished just after 10 tonight), but now, what is on my laptop is also on my desktop in a folder unoriginally named “backup” (I was tired. Sue me.). Now all I have to do is get around to actually whiping it and installing Gentoo. Which may or may not happen this year. I’m curious to start playing with gnome and orca, but not curious enough yet to undergo the manual instalation process Gentoo takes. And no, I refuse to install Ubuntu. Debian, *maybe*. But only if I have to.

I have too much time, methinks.

So in between getting things settled up for Christmas, and taking Jess (samari76) out for her birthday, I’ve had a bit of an opportunity to do some technological geeking. I’ve been toying with the idea of installing a local copy of various versions of Linux, mostly for the awesome factor that would go with it. That, plus trish is rather curious to see exactly what the system looks like. So with mucho assistance from Mike (lightvortex), I got my hands on an iso of Gentoo, A.K.A. my OS of choice. Burned two live CD’s, one for my eventual booting/possible installing, and one so Trish can look at it on her own schedule and optionally install it when she decides it’s something she’s got time to dink around with. If I ever do get around to installing Gentoo locally, I’ve still got the HP laptop sitting in the other room that’s been in a sort of semi-state of retirement since about September/October of last year, when I got my hands on this machine. I’m giving serious thought to plunking Gentoo on that machine, and taking the Orca screenreader for a test drive. Thought about a couple others, but from doing my own poking around Orca’s got the most publicly available documentation/information on it. I’m not *overly* impressed with its selection of speech synths, but considering it’s free software, plus is completely and totally open source, I don’t see that being a permanent problem. If it turns out I actually enjoy locally using Gentoo,I may do exactly the same thing with the desktop here; ditch the copy of Windows and subsequent copy of JAWS for Windows I have on here, and stick Gentoo in its place. God knows there’s about 40 billion equivalent programs I can use to do the same every day things I do on here while using that particular OS. Now I just have to muster up the nerve to actually take the plunge. One of these days I’ll let loose with my Windows versus Linux post. But for the moment, I’ll just leave it at Linux will pwn j00. And yes, Rox’e (pawpower4me), it even pwns your macs. Like wo.