Bellingham Linux Fest 2006

Myself, Wim, Dana, T&C went down this year for the annual Linux Fest Northwest held at Bellingham at the technical college. We started out with five people stuffed in a not bad car for 4, but it was only a 30 minute drive down, so it wasn’t all that bad.
The first presentation we all went into was one on Linux Virtualization by Ilya Baimetov, talking about using OpenVZ and Virtuozzo (we had originally thought it was a talk about Xen). Quite interesting, though we missed the first half of the lecture, where they explained the differences between things like Xen and OpenVZ. The config for OpenVZ seemed a bit easier though, at least as far as controlling the virtual machines, though as Dana pointed out (that sharp security guy he is), that being able to execute commands like:

# vzctl exec machine123 ps ax

from the host machine with no authentication to the client basically means if the host machine is rooted every client is not only 0wned, it’s also able to poke around in the clients machine unauthenticated by standard authentication the client may have set up (normally this would be the client required to give the hosting company a root password or similar in case Something Bad happens) an no audit log (though I’m not sure what sort of logging or audit trail this system has. It’s a relatively new system though, and we didn’t see all the talk. I didn’t realize there was an alternative to Xen out there though.
The second talk was a similar one, or so we thought, called Offsite Virtual Colocation Servers by Keith Lofstrom in the same room. It had “virtual” in the title, so we were sucked into the buzzword vortex. It turned out to be a far more simplistic talk (to us) about how to set yourself up with offsite backup / access through a hosted virtual server.
Next up, lunch! BBQd salmon was the standard fare, so we left the classroom to discover that the lovely sun we had driven down in had turned into pouring rain. At this point the 5 of us broke up and T and I got salmon and then wandered through the sellers market, completely ignoring / forgetting about the third talk. When they set these things up you’d think they’d give a bit of time for lunch right?
The last one that J and I (who I met up with down there with his friend M) was the Desktop Innovation on Linux at Novell with Ted Haeger (who noted his appearance on his own blog). This was probably my favorite talk of the three, even though I knew the most about it.
Mostly the talk was on tools like the Banshee music player (playing “Come as You Are” by Nirvana as we speak), the Tango icon project, F-Spot (still a bit immature for my needs/wants I think) and mono. The end of the presentation had the ultra-sexy XGL demo as well. It was nice to have someone else affirm that the eye-candy does actually have real-world use as well. I know that it had to somewhere, but hadn’t figure out just how. His example was a visually impared person at one of his other talks wanted/needed the “zoom” technology it to do things like browse webpages that used flash and wouldn’t let you increase font size. Anyway, Ted was a really funny and engaging speaker who was quite enjoyable even if the talk went a bit long.
Other than hitting a Red Robin on the way back and enjoying a pint of a non-sucky beer, it was another successful year.

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More Movable Type Themes

So I discovered StyleCatcher, which is a nice and easy way to put in new themes for your blog (as long as the underlying code hasn’t been too radically changed. Only problem is that the default page they give you are pretty slim pickings. Anyway, I found that if you throw the URL for the theme contest that Sixapart put together,, you get a lot more choices. I’m experimenting with a few now. They also seem to not suffer from the ‘right hand column at the bottom of the page’ syndrome that the styles on the default MT styles page gives you.

My only issue right now is figuring out a way to make the theme I do find or like to be “fluid” (colums adjust based on browser width) instead of static (columns are a set width).

Of course as I’ve been playing over the last 20 min or so after I posted this it seems that most themes are a fixed width because they use a graphic as the background to create the funky effects. Bah. Oh well, keep on experimenting I guess…

I have no idea if it’s ok to use these themes by the way.

This is also a note for myself as you don’t seem to be able to change the setting for the starting page :)

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Database all Fixed Up

OK, I think I have this thing fixed. The database curruption wasn’t that bad, I had to basically dump all the entries from this blog, create a complete new Movable Type install and a new database to go with it, import the entries into it, then reset my original install to point to the new DB. Lots of fun. There are still some other issues, and I’m sure I can work through those. I’m also looking to spice up the look (again, for non-rss users) from SixApart’s style library.

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Waking Up On Time

An interesting read on How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off. I really need this, my routine while unemployed has gotten really bad. I’m sleeping the same amount I think, just my sleep cycle has shifted from 10pm-7am to 12am or 1am to 9am or 10am. That said, I’m posting this at midnight and am thinking I should do a bit of Half Life 2 playing before hitting the hay :)

Had a second interview today for a company a buddy of mine works at. Seem like really good guys, relaxed, very geeky, and a place that I think I’d be happy working at. Couple of weeks before I’d find out though I think, as the big boss is out of the country right now. I also finally was able to put my invoice in to $ex-work for the work I’ve done over the last month. Yay, because ye-ol-mortgage is coming up quickly.

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Pardon The Wonkyness

I discovered that under gentoo that Apache2 + mod_perl = memory leak.

Somewhere in all the crunching as my machine ground away on 0 bytes of memory some databases got currupted, so right now I’m working on getting the templates for my blog back up and going. Pardon any wonkyness you find here. I also discovered a bug in my backup script, where I dump the database to the directory that’s being backed up, move it elsewhere, back up the directory, then delete the database dump file :( Bah!

Not even sure if this will go through.

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Dear Javascript Gurus out There…

I have a bit of code that is using the excellent free XUpload progress bar. I’ve modified it a bit for my current project, and am having some performance issues due to some javascript I added.

What happens is the main <FORM> tag has an onSubmit() action of calling a StartUpload() function. I’ve added code to the start of the fuction to check to see if a delete file button has been pressed, and if it is the button and not the ‘upload’ button, it simply returns and doesn’t open the file transfer dialog.

My code looks like this (added code in green):

function StartUpload()
// first check if it’s a ‘delete_xxx’ button being hit, and return
for (var i=0;i<document.F1.length;i++)
current = document.F1.elements[i];
if(current.type==’submit’ &&

// … rest of function here…

It works, and it’s really slow, because I presume it goes through every single (HTML? or just form?) element on the page. What I really need is to find out what the current button that was pressed is. I know the name will be “delete_XX” where XX is a number from 01 to 05.

Can anyone help me out?

Update: I fixed this by digging a bit deeper into the code. In there there is a counter for the number of file browse dialogs that are not set to an empty string, so simply checking for if the counter is greater than 0 or not worked dandy. There is still an edge case where a large upload under mozilla gives the “Script is causing your computer to perform slowly” message, but I think that’s somewhere in my code.

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Ripping out the Back Yard

No, not a nasty sexy euphemism, we started some work in the back of the house in preparation for a mini-machine that Firefly will be getting in. A friend of ours who is a landscaper came by and basically wandered through the yard saying “that’s gone, gone, out of there, get that stuff out, gone, gone, gone, that? that’s gone…” and so on. Luckily this basically justified what my thoughts were, which was rip everything out and start from scratch. Get rid of the old hedge, forget moving the big overgrown plants around, just firebomb the whole yard and start from scratch.

Course, that’ll be a bit more costly than not doing a bunch of work, but it’s like the house, a work in progress that we can do bit by bit as money becomes avaiable.

So anyway, I started chopping up the bushes and stuff on saturday, results below (click for bigger).

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Photographer of Female Life in the Israeli Army

This is pretty cool….. Serial No. 3817131 is a site by a photographer who wanted to portray the life of young girls in their manditory term in the Israeli army. When I first got to the site I didn’t know what the heck it was, then I went through the pics and was very impressed, you definately (I feel) get sucked into the world that the young women get to live in. It’s a strange contrast, one picture are these young girls bonding and laughing, the next they’re out in the desert or at the firing range.

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Thurrott on Vista… Not Happy

Interesting insight in Paul Thurrott’s latest Vista article. Paul is someone who I’ve often had resentment for, simply because of his (apparent) steadfast love of Microsoft and all things Bill. Turns out that he’s a bit more fair and balanced than that, and I apologize for the misgivings I had for him. Of course, maybe I just like him cause he’s bashing MS :)

Basically it sounds like he’s sick of apolagizing for microsoft. He points out that Vista has gone through far more turmoil than it should have, has gained and lost features in the process (WinFS anyone?) and seems to be lifting features from Apple and Linux, not the other way around.

Shame on you, Microsoft. Shame on you, but not just for not doing better. We expect you to copy Apple, just as Apple (and Linux) in its turn copies you. But we do not and should not expect to be promised the world, only to be given a warmed over copy of Mac OS X Tiger in return. Windows Vista is a disappointment. There is no way to sugarcoat that very real truth.

He also addresses one of the HUGE warts I saw in the last build I installed…. the User Account Protection. Think of it as what MacOS does when you need to install an application into the system directory, or how you don’t actually create a root account in Ubuntu, but instead are asked for your user password when you do a “system” type operation.

The last Vista build basically pops up (yet another) badly worded dialog box asking you to say ‘yes’ because something is accessing a system file. This is good right? When spyware installs itself into c:\windows\system32 you’ll see that keygen.exe is doing something naughty and say no, right? Yes and no. Seems that Vista pops this up for almost anything. Changing the wallpaper and doing such innocuous operations. I can very easily see people simply clicking “Yes” all the time because they do it so much. The beauty of the MacOS way of doing this exact same thing is that you hardly ever see the dialog, so when it’s there you know that something is going on. In my year or so with a powerbook I can count the number of times I saw this on two hands, and this was mostly for installing Apple or (ironically) Microsoft software :)

It’s good to see that even the hard core microsofties are not so hardcore that they ignore the warts that seem to be more and more apparent all the time, and the now hugely obvious “hype hype hype” campaigns that have been there since the Windows 95 days (remember trying to make the choice between Windows 95 and OS/2 anyone?), and have been going on for a couple of years now by Microsoft.

Anyway, it’s a great article, go read it.

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Household Duties

Finally it was not raining long enough today for me to cut the grass. Gads what a job… it hasn’t been cut since august of last year or so, so it was in rough shape. Even with the wheels on the mower set to their highest setting the bag still filled up in about two rows. Even after I was done my only comment to Firefly was “this backyard needs to be firebombed”. Happily enough, I hear a rumor that FireflyBro is going to be bringing over a little machine that we can use to do all the “yard keeping” type duties that haven’t been done. Getting rid of the hedge, moving the flowers and mini trees that have been slowly invading the backyard out and into a better place (perhaps sending them to wildflower-heaven), and happiest of all, getting rid of the plum tree stump that’s been there since we removed the top half of the not-happy plum tree when we moved in almost 2 years ago.

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