New Disk

It’s been three weeks since my last blog entry ( I aim to do at least one per
week) so I thought I’d best post something.

The main news is that I have left Telecom ( after 3.5 years ) and have been at a new
job for the lat two weeks. The new job is part of a small team ( approx 5
people ) which look after the servers (and some other equipment) for one of
New Zealand’s top 10 websites.

Things have been pretty busy as I’ve had to get up to speed on the environment
fast since one of the other guys is on leave for 4 weeks but learning the
technology has been interesting. Things also move a *lot* quicker than they did
at Telecom.

Technology wise I’ve been playing around a little bit with the [nginx](http://nginx.net/)
webserver for possible serving static content. Especially the [Mirror on Demand](http://hostingfu.com/article/nginx-and-mirror-demand)
concept looks pretty cool for syncing multiple servers.

I also had a bit of fun today getting a new 750GB Hard drive working. Because
my old machine doesn’t have any SATA ports I’m using a [SiI3114 – PCI to 4 Port SATA Card](http://www.siliconimage.com/products/product.aspx?id=28)
to access the disks. However it didn’t recognise my new drive because it was too big.

A bit of googling around and found I had to flash the card’s bios to a new version
in order for it to recognise the drive. It took me a couple of goes since the
bios update programs only work for Windows or DOS so I have to boot into
[FreeDOS](http://www.freedos.org) but all working now:

# df -H /media/disk1
Filesystem             Size   Used  Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sdb1              739G   207M   739G   1% /media/disk1

Useful links:

* [George Pantazis explains the problem and suggests using FreeDOS](http://ssh-lroot.blogspot.com/2007/10/sil-3114-add-on-card-bios-update.html)
* [The BIOS Update Utility and IOS images](http://www.siliconimage.com/support/supportsearchresults.aspx?pid=28&cid=15&ctid=2&)
* [A good article on how to create the FreeDOS boot image with the utility on it](http://www.linuxinsight.com/how-to-flash-motherboard-bios-from-linux-no-dos-windows-no-floppy-drive.html)

Anyway time to head to bed. I have to get up at 7am these days to get into work
and my sleep patterns are still adjusting. The good news is that I’m actually starting
to get through my TODO list and I’m only a little behind in my email.
END

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Catchup and EeeXubuntu

Yesterday I installed [EeeXubuntu](http://wiki.eeeuser.com/ubuntu:eeexubuntu:home)
on my [Asus Eee PC](http://www.eeeuser.com). [Xubuntu](http://www.xubuntu.org/) is
a version of Ubuntu designed for low-specification computers while EeeXubuntu
is a slightly tweaked version of that that installs some drivers and such
for the Eee.

I was pretty impressed with EeeXubuntu ( probably pronounced “Easy-buntu” ), I
followed the instructions and burned the ISO image on a flash drive. Then it was
just a matter of pressing escape on boot up to make it boot from the drive instead
of the normal internal drive. The EeeXubuntu install is also a live boot disk
so I played around with it first to make sure I like it before I installed
it over the top of the Xandros install my Eee came with.

The default desktop now looks like this (click to go to larger image):

and is pretty similar to a normal desktop install. The Xfce desktop doesn’t
seem to be missing many features that I got with my normal Gnome desktop on
Ubuntu so I am pretty happy so far. All the hardware (except the camera which I have not tested) works
okay and both Suspend-to-RAM and Suspend-to-disk work. Boot times are a little
slower but I am happy otherwise.

I partitioned the 4G disk with 500MB of Swap (very low priority) and the
Operating System uses just over half of what is left. Even better I can use
the normal Ubuntu software repositories so new software is easy to install

On the subject of my Eee I haven’t posted before about my “Eee Kit” which I carry
around.

The kit comes in thick plastic bag with a zip (not zip-lock) to seal it and
consists of the Eee power supply, a small mouse ($20) and a tin containing
some headphones and a 4G flash drive. It all seals up nicely and takes about
as much space in my bag as the Eee itself. About the only thing I miss would
be a short piece of cat5 cable.

Other Items.

+ I am currently reading [The discovery of France](http://www.amazon.com/Discovery-France-Historical-Geography-Revolution/dp/0393059731) by Graham Robb
which is a fascinating book on how pre-WW1 “France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks,
and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.”
+ A torrent of all Linux.conf.au 2008 talks and slides is available [here](http://www.cc.com.au/torrent/linux.conf.au+2008) (12GB).
+ NZNOG 2008 has posted conference slides for [Wednesday](http://conference.nznog.org/wednesdayoptions.html) and [Thursday/Friday](http://conference.nznog.org/conferencepapers.html) along with [videos](http://www.r2.co.nz/20080124/) (still being updated).
+ The Sysadmin Miniconf slides are now up for [Linux.conf.au 2008](http://sysadmin.miniconf.org/programme08.html) and [NZNOG 2008](http://nznog.miniconf.org/programme08.html)
+ I recently got involved with the [Mailop](http://www.mailop.org/) group, which is a list for Email Administrators.
+ I’m currently working out my notice at my current job and going to start a new one in a weeks time. More details later.
END

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Fight for Your Right – Friday at LCA 2008

The last real day of Linux.conf.au 2008 was [Friday](http://linux.conf.au/programme/friday). I had
signed up to do a a [lightning talk](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_Talk) in the last
session (see more below) so I ended up spending various breaks, writing and
rehearsing that rather than the other stuff.

The Keynote today was about Python and Python 3000 by [Anthony Baxter](http://www.interlink.com.au/anthony/). While
there have been a couple of complaints that the talk wasn’t good enough to be
a keynote I was very please with it. It was of medium but accessible technical
level about a major open source project which is used by many others. It was
by a local who is a senior person in the project and it was well presented. It
was also good to have something a bit more technical that the previous two
keynotes. Interesting thing I learnt about was the Low Level Virtual Machine or [LLVM](http://llvm.org/)

The prize draw had a weird/stage/disturbing moment when the organisers took
back a prize from someone who had won it in the draw. I can see thinking but
I am not sure if the right result was achieved.

First session was one of those nice ones where there were four talks I would
like to have attended (I’ll download an watch later I guess) but I ended up
going to [Dave Airlie](http://airlied.livejournal.com/) on Open Source Graphics
Drivers. I went to this last year and he is a pretty good speaker. This year
it was a pretty good survey of the current state of things and quite
interesting and to a good extent very positive.

One thing I’d really like to see would be a site with a nice summary of the
current support of various video cards in Linux. This might be good for
people looking to buy new cards so they could know which ones have closed drivers,
which open, which are shipping in distributions and how well they work.

Session two again had a few options but I went to see the talk on Suspend
to Disk, quite good again although a little over my head. The problem
really seems to be at the unsolved stage right now with kexec as a possible
option but that still only solves half the problem.

After lunch I went to [Keith Packard’s](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Packard)
X driver talk. Once again it was a bit of a survey of current status (with a bit
about Intel releasing docs at the start) which is good for people like me
who aren’t seriously into this but like a survey of where things are currently up to.

The last main talk I saw was from [Luke Kanies](http://www.madstop.com) about
[Puppet](http://www.reductivelabs.com/projects/puppet/) and resource abstract
in System management. Nice talk on an area I am especially interested in
these days although I guess I don’t need as much convincing as some people.

One thing I took back from this year’s LCA is that running servers like people did
15 years ago doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s not just the big boys but just about
everyone with more than half a dozen (and perhaps less) servers should be using config mngt
to administer them. No less than 3 speakers at the Sysadmin Miniconf said that
if they have a server to install or re-install they jump jumpstart it to a simple
install and use their Config Mngt programs (Puppet in 2 cases) to install the
reset of the software and config. 15 Minutes from bare metal is all it should take.

On the other hand where I work I’d be lucky to open the ticket to have a
box restored in 15 minutes. It could take hours (or more) for it to actually
happen. While Luke (and others) have done a lot of work convincing many that
this sort of thing is now “best practice” there are still many places prefer
to run things the way they always have. I suspect a few of those places are
going to have a lot of trouble competing with those that do keep up.

I can’t find the quote but (from memory) one of the speakers said that ten
percent of the total global IT spending in 2008 was going to be made by the
top 20 providers ( Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc) on Data centers and computers
to fill them. These companies, the people they sell to and their imitators
are the ones are going to deliver IT infrastructure so quickly and cheaply that
traditional IT depts (and companies that depend on them) won’t be able to keep
up.

After the last of the talks there was a lightning talk session in the main hall.
This was quite well attended ( at least 350 people) and featured some pretty
good talks.

My talk was on a protocol that could be used by speech recognition programs to
talk to each other. It is about 32 minutes into [the video](http://mirror.linux.org.au/pub/linux.conf.au/2008/Fri/mel8-820.ogg) just
after the talk by Pia Waugh. Looking at it I didn’t do too bad but obviously wasn’t
anywhere near as good as some of the speakers.

It was a little disappointing to see that many of the Lightning talk speakers
were quite experienced speakers like Pia and Jeff Waugh, Rusty Russell etc rather
than people we don’t normally see. However some of the speakers were new and
also the regulars delivered some very good talks.

The evening event was the “Google Party” which was a BBQ and drinks in a
covered area of the University. Reasonable nice I guess although I found it
hard to mix and ended up going back to Trinity fairly early. Talking to people
there was good although the Sept 11th Conspiracy Theory guy was creepy and
got on my nerves. I really have no time for kooks and nutters and it is a shame
that even LCA has it’s share of them

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Slow Ride – Thursday at LCA 2008

I started out [Thursday](http://linux.conf.au/programme/thursday) by going to
the keynote by [Stormy Peters](http://www.stormyscorner.com/). It was a little
less crowded getting seated this time around. A good keynote overall on what
motivates people to participate in open source projects and how that
interacts with companies paying them.

First main talk I went to was about “Memory-Efficient and Fast Websites — Pick Two!” which
by Malcolm Tredinnick was a very interesting talk although I did know a good
percentage of what he said already. However I picked up some links to tools
I didn’t know about already and some good tips on best practice.

One big problem was that the talk was very crowded, part of the problem with
this was that LCA this year didn’t have enough large rooms to go around. So while
the main Copland theatre could hold 493 people the others maxed out at 100-150
each. This meant that it took less than 25 percent of the attendees to fill
up one of these rooms ( from just 5 streams ). I guess that the organisers
just have to go with what rooms they have but future organisers should probably
try to have at least 3 rooms holding 200-250 people for a 600 person conference (with
one of these holding 400 plus ).

The other part of the problem was that [Rusty](http://ozlabs.org/~rusty/) got
the largest room and then spent 3 days scaring away as many attendees as
possible by telling them how much expertise was required. I suspect the organisers
had a “deer in headlights” moment or two with room allocations for this section
and decided that Rusty would probably be the most popular. However as I
stated above the big disparity in room sizes put them in this tough position.

The other thing I got slightly annoyed about in the talk was the couple who
re-arranged several other people in order to sit next to each other during
the talk. I really think that you could have survived being a couple of
metres apart from an hour or two ( especially since you didn’t talk or touch
during the talk except during the break ) rather than shuffling other
people ( not me ) around. You really should remember that you are ( I hope )
independent thinking entities not some creepy hive mind.

Anyway enough blog bitchiness. Next I went to a talk about Speech and Braille
computer outputs by Jason White. A pretty good talk with some interesting bits,
in a survey of the current state of the technology. I think many people
were surprised that a [Refreshable Braille display](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refreshable_Braille_display) costs
some $8000 dollars. I think there are a couple of efforts starting to
happen to produce lower cost alternatives.

[Val Henson](http://www.valhenson.org/) next did a talk on [chunkfs](http://www.valhenson.org/chunkfs/)
which I liked. Not too technical for me to follow ( Everything I know about
the Kernel is from the Linux Weekly News ) but it seemed to cover the details
in the serious Kernel people were interested in.

Afterwards I went to a talk about [netconf](http://netconf.alioth.debian.org/)
by [Martin Krafft](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Krafft) . The netconf
project is intended to replace ifupdown with something more event driven
to handle the more dynamic environment systems (especially laptops) live in
these days with networks coming and going dynamically and everything being
auto-configured.

While most people at the talk seemed to agree that something had to be done
there seemed to be many that felt that [NetworkManager](http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Tools/NetworkManager)
might be a better tool rather than Debian developing one of their own. Personally
I said that creating a whole event-driven system seemed to be a duplication
of what [upstart](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upstart) is doing. Martin replied
that he didn’t think upstart was getting into Debian any time soon which I
assume is some heavy political issue since Martin maintains the package for Debian.

Last up was [David Jones](http://www.codemonkey.org.uk) talking about maintaining
the fedora kernel. Generally quite interesting and entertaining with minimal flashes
of nudity.

For dinner I went to the Professional Delegates Networking Session ( confusing
referred to as the [PDNS](http://www.powerdns.com) ) at the [Melbourne Museum](http://museumvictoria.com.au/MelbourneMuseum/)’s [CSIRAC](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSIRAC) exhibition.
We got buses there but it turned out that the Museum is right next to
[Lygon Street](http://www.melbourne.com.au/lygon.htm) it it wasn’t really
that far away. The sessions was the usual sort of thing with nibble and drinks
( not much coke though ) and finished around 9:30 or 10 (forget which). There
was a bit of confusion with some people waiting for buses back ( there were none
but nobody had been told ) before everybody either walked back of to the
Google Student party. I ended up walking back ( ice cream on the way ) with
a couple of others

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Paul Revere – Wednesday at LCA 2008

[Wednesday](http://linux.conf.au/programme/wednesday) is the first day of the main conference with the main speakers and
five parallel tracks. First up was [Bruce Schneier](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Schneier) doing
a talk on security theatre, security reality etc. The talk was without slides
which is fairly unusual and I found it a little hard to concentrate ( I
tried shutting my eyes even) but good and interesting content.

After that was the first of the giveaways. It has been traditional for the
last few LCA’s for prizes ( usually laptops or gadgets) to be given away
to people who are at the keynotes in order to encourage people to attend, if
you are not there when you name is called out then then next person is called.

This morning (and later in the morning) several [OLPC’s](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child) were
handed out to various mostly excited people. Later several several of the
winners gave them away to people they thought could better use them which I think
is a very good spirit.

For the first session I ended up going to a the GTK/Gnome programming tutorial
which was interesting and helpful to novice programmers such as myself. Then
after dithering between a talk on the XFS File system ( I had talking to the
presenter, Dave Chinner the previous night and it sounded interesting) and a NSS
speedup talk I ended going to the Kernel Report by Jonathan Corbet of [Linux Weekly News](http://lwn.net) ,
interesting but probably not as good as the first session since I read his column every week already.

For the next session there were several good talks listed and I went to one by
Dirk Hohndel of Intel which was advising people on how to work with hardware
vendors and giving a bit of an insiders view from hardware vendors of open source. Interest again and he definitely indicated that some of the vendors
(especially video cards and wireless) had a lot of IP tied up in drivers which
they would not be going away while most others could probably be worked with.

The last talk was a little disappointing, I went to Carl Worth’s talk on X
acceleration but found there wasn’t a lot of content. It was sort of a rundown
of 5 years or so of history followed by a summary of where their effort was
up to. Probably could have been compressed to about 5 minutes.

As a sidenote I found that I was getting quite a few questions about my Eee
at the conference so I got to practice my tour. There were at least 20 other
people with one and many of them had install alternative desktops on them
already. Asking around I’ll probably install the [eeexubuntu](http://wiki.eeeuser.com/ubuntu:eeexubuntu:home)
version of the the [xubuntu](http://www.xubuntu.org/) desktop.

The Penguin dinner this year was a little different in that it was held
at [Melbourne Night Market](http://www.qvm.com.au/night_market.php) which
is a big outdoor food hall (Which slightly reminded my of the [Hawker centres](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawker_centre) I
saw in Malaysia). There was a bit of confusion with the organisation at the start with
a giant line forming to one of the bars when there were 3 others just around the corner
along with all the food. However once that was sorted out people seemed happy.
The arrangement was that were were given 8 $5 tickets to buy food and drink with at the stalls inside.

I picked a German hot dog, some vegetarian Indian and a middle eastern meat
sandwich which all tasted pretty good and left me full. However as
[Mary Gardiner mentioned](http://puzzling.org/logs/thoughts/2008/January/31/lca2008-day3) there
wasn’t as much mixing as previously and I ended up leaving a little early. All
wasn’t lost however since I had a very interesting conversation with a Sysadmin
from [Wollongong](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wollongong%2C_New_South_Wales)
about jobs, technology, etc.

I forgot to mention that on Tuesday night I ended up sitting near
[Andrew Tridgell](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Tridgell) who had
a [Sony Reader](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Reader) that he was showing people. It
looked quite cool and apparently has a bit less DRM than usual with Sony. I
try and avoid buying Sony where possible though due to their bad reputation

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The New Style – Tuesday at linux.conf.au 2008

Big day for me on Tuesday with the Sysadmin Miniconf happening. We (
Ewen, Andrew and myself) and the other Miniconf people all had to be in
at 8am to setup for out Miniconfs. It turned out this was a good idea
since the controls in our room were not working and one of the
University techies had to fix it remotely, the MySQL people had to move
completely when there room’s equipment didn’t work at all.

After we started our room filled right up, past overflowing so we ended
up swapping with MySQL and moving into the big theatre in the block. I
think we had close to 150 people at most talks so a big success.

Apart from a couple of small glitches (mainly with the sound) and the
printed programme being out of date the day went pretty good. Ewen and
Andrew kept things ticking over and I mostly avoided getting too
stressed, collecting slide copies and actually listening to the odd
talk.

I think the one I liked best was Lindsay Holmwood’s puppet based one in
the early sessions. It was very well presented ( Lissig style with lots
of simple slides) and the content was great. The slides from all the
talks along with video should be available on the web very soon.

The rest of the talks were all good as well, feedback from others was
pretty positive and I think I’ll definitely try and do it again next
year. Due to time constraints the maximum talk length was just 25 minutes
but keeping to this meant we got a lot more talks into the day although I
would have liked more depth sometimes.

After the end of the Miniconf I went to the Speaker’s dinner. I wasn’t
actually speaking at the conference but Miniconf organisers got invited
along too which was really cool.

The venue was nice and I got to talk to some interesting people who I
hopefully didn’t bore too much

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Rhymin & Stealin – Monday at linux.conf.au

First thing Monday I decided to go to the Virtualisation Miniconf to
something labeled “Keynote”. Unfortunately it appears their schedule was
completely screwed so one of the later talks was happening. I didn’t find
this interesting so I snuck off to Debian and caught the “State of the Debian
Project” talk which was pretty interesting.

Due to the brochure being printed a few weeks ago, the timetables from
many of the Miniconfs are out of date. While this is 100 times better than
last year when nothing had been printed it is still frustrating. The organisers
were really cool and let me print out a couple of our the Sysadmin Miniconf
schedule so I’ll hang this outside our room tomorrow to give people the
latest schedule.

At this point I really have to thank the organisers, so far they have been
incredible efficient and helpful beyond the call of duty. So when I’ve asked
for weird and non-standard stuff like printouts they have been really
nice, helpful and complete good about doing all them. I’d like to give them a
big thank you and a “You guys rock!” .

I dropped into the Multimedia Miniconf for the next session and caught
an overview of some new Dirac codecs from one of the people at the BBC
and then 3 quick talks. The first was a great update on the ogg
projects by [Chris Montgomery](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Montgomery) ,
the second was a report on a FOSS survey which was a little wasted when the
presented spent the first 10 minutes going on about her organisation and
I missed the 3rd.

For lunch ended having a very nice Italian lunch of pasta and bruschetta
( I love bruschetta) with some guys so I was a bit late back to the next
session.

I caught the end of a session at the virtualisation Miniconf ( I
apparently missed the good ones this morning) and then over to
debian for a discussion about “Why don’t the big guys love Debian”, some
good points discussed although I think some people are hung up about
shipping binary modules, for large companies that want to run Debian on
servers binary modules are not important, solid support and someone to
yell at is. For the last session I squeezed into the security Miniconf
to heard about ssh exploits

Afterward a bunch of us went to Lydon St for the Sysadmin ( and friends)
dinner. After a bit of problem with the venue we ended up in a nice
place and had a good pizza dinner with a bit of ice cream afterward

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Time to get ill

After a few problems with delayed flights I finally got into Melbourne.
for linux.conf.au. Meet some people from NZ and we shared a taxi into the
venue ( $42 total ).

I arrived around noon on Sunday and the registration for my accommodation
( Trinity ) didn’t open till 1pm so I sat in the shade chatting to people
and trying to get my cellphone to work.

My room is on the 3rd floor and a little old but nice enough, the whole
college has an old feel with hundred year old main buildings (at least
they look) 100 years old.

The conference venue is just 10 minutes walk away from Trinity so I
wandered over and signed up. I’m professional this year so a bit more
stuff than previously. After that I went with some people to Lygon St
for an ice cream.

The newcomers session was pretty good, some others have already blogged
about it. Afterward about 50 people went to a local pub (across the
road from trinity ). The pub had just opened just last week so it was
still not 100% work with staff fairly new and only a few a couple of
beers on tap. In the end I was feeling a little sick so I went home a
little early. Talked to plenty of people during the day and caught up
with a few people from previous years, this would of course be easier if
I actually could remember names and faces, roll on the Sense Cam clone

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No Sleep to Melbourne

Just one day till the start of [linux.conf.au 2008](http://linux.conf.au) so
I thought I should do a few posts. This one was supposed to out yesterday
(Saturday) but I ended up getting distracted. So just pretend this was
posted 12 hours ago.

For the rest of this week I’ll be in Melbourne attended linux.conf.au and
related events. If you are new to LCA then see the [main site](http://linux.conf.au) or
read the [First timers](http://www.darkmere.gen.nz/2007/0129.html) that I
wrote a few months ago.

The Main event I am looking forward to is the [System Administration Miniconf](http://
sysadmin.miniconf.org) on Tuesday which I am helping to organise. The programme
is online [here](http://sysadmin.miniconf.org/programme08.html) although there
might be a last minute change or two.

Monday is the first day of the Miniconfs with Community Wireless, Debian,
Education, Embedded, Fedora and Multimedia, Security and Virtualisation all
happening. I’ll probably spend most of the day at the virtualisation Miniconf
but I have to do a detailed check of the other miniconf’s schedules to spot
cool talks elsewhere.

On Monday night an informal dinner has been arranged at a local Italian place
for the the Sysadmin Miniconf and anyone else who wants to attended. Details
are here

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Paul Brislen kills 2 birds

In a burst of productivity, IT Journalist Paul Brislen reports comments made by
Vodafone spokesman Paul Brislen in [this herald article](http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10485091).

I guess later in the year the paper will have rookie journalist Helen Clark
uses her unprecedented contacts to interview the Prime Minister and senior
government figures.

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