Archive | September, 2007

Red Hat Magazine | A guide to GNU Screen

A handy reference, A guide to GNU Screen, appears in Red Hat Magazine:

The same way tabbed browsing revolutionized the web experience, GNU Screen can do the same for your experience in the command line. GNU Screen allows you to manage several interactive shell instances within the same “window.”

The killer feature of screen, in my mind, is the ability to launch a long-running task, disconnect and reconnect to it later. For a consultant on the go, or when your wireless isn’t reliable (or the dog pulls the ethernet out of the wall), screen lets you reconnect and pick up where you left off. It’s handy for setting up a set of screens on a client site and then using only one secure tunnel to connect to them and examine the state of various applications. This is a tool everyone should learn and keep in their toolkit.

Former TheOpenCD project lead starts OpenDisc

I’ve plugged TheOpenCD a few times on this blog before. We’ve talked at several recent LUG meetings on the value of TheOpenCD, in giving a customer, client, friend or stranger a CD of well-organized, easily installed, polished Open Source applications. In a recent blog posting, the former project lead talks about the management and infrastructural hurdles in TheOpenCD project and announces his own new project, OpenDisc. I wish both projects the best!

Book recommendation: CSS, Separating Content from Presentation

I wanted to make a strong recommendation you pick up Cascading Style Sheets: Separating Content from Presentation, Second Edition, Second Edition. I read the first half of the book a couple of weekends ago and was so inspired, I tore into one of my websites for a major overhaul. The book lays out the issues of CSS, the tricks to implementations, and the details of how rules and selectors and cascading and “inheritance” (I have to quote it – CSS inheritance is much more containership than OOP’s version of inheritance, a poor choice of terms, imo). The writing is fast-paced, easily-comprehensible and entertaining. Best CSS book I’ve read to date.

Notes from the NH Ruby/Rails Group, 25-Sept-2007: Scott Garman and Nick Plante

Five attendees made it to the September meeting of the NH Ruby/Rails User Group, held as usual at the well-appointed RMC Research offices, though not on the usual third Tuesday. A round of introductions lead to some vigorous discussions, including how to broadcast and record meetings (perhaps a future meeting will be available via WebEx?), other computing organizations and conferences in the Granite State (GNHLUG, SwANH, the infoeXchange conference, NH High-Tech Council, etc.).

Nick Plante had some great stories about the Ruby Rampage, a 48-hour online programming contest he help run. A large number of teams competed and a fair number actually delivered working applications, some of them looking quite polished. There’s open voting on the most popular applications, and winners will walk away with a number of desirable prizes. Nick’s also been tapped to do the closing presentation at Ruby East, where he will demonstrate some of the more popular applications. There are some great apps there, and some will be providing their source code, though not all. Check them out!

On to the main presentation: Scott and Nick had started a simple Ruby app for NHRuby members to be able to suggest future meeting topics and vote on them, giving the organizers some ideas on what to present next. Tonight, Scott presented the unit, functional and integration test frameworks built into Rails and/or available as add-ons. Nick showed the UI for the voting interface and dove deep into how the form functioned. There was a lot of discussion, with debates on where the boundaries are in unit vs. functional vs. integration, and how Javascript (via the Prototype libraries) can be integrated into the interface and how Rails allows graceful degradation on platforms with Javascript unavailable or disabled. Comparisons were made between the internal, programmer-centric tests provided by Rails and external tests a QA person might run with a tool like Selenium. Lots and lots of great ideas. In a future meeting, Scott and Nick will discuss the next step, deploying the application, perhaps using Vlad the Deployer (ow) and/or the new Capistrano 2.

Thanks to Scott for organizing the meeting, Tim of RMC for providing the meeting space, Scott and Nick for the presentation, Brian for mentioning Selenium and all for their attendance and participation!

raganwald: We have lost control of the apparatus

Reg Braithwaite passes on the bad news: “I am writing to you as a fellow programmer and software developer. I write in friendship and brotherhood. My heart is heavy, and the news I impart is not good: raganwald: We have lost control of the apparatus.” A funny piece, with a pointed moral to the story: the time of “the computer guy” dictating how the application should work is passing. Good riddance!

New Hampshire Ruby/Rails Group, 25-Sept-2007: Live Coding

Organizer Scott Garmin posts:

“Tomorrow’s NH Ruby/Rails User Group meeting will include a continuation of the live coding project Nick Plante and Scott Garman started during the July meeting. This project was to develop a web application where group members could submit proposed topics for future meetings, and vote on their favorites… This month, Nick Plante will demonstrate how to add the voting system to the application. Nick will use an AJAX-based 5-star voting system that you may have seen on many product review sites… Scott Garman will give an introduction to the Rails testing framework, demonstrating how unit, functional, and integration tests are written. Scott will also demo some useful third-party tools that make testing easier and faster, and how they integrate with the NetBeans IDE.”

WHEN: Tuesday, September 25, 2007. 7-9 PM.
WHERE: RMC Research Offices, 1000 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH.

For a map and driving directions, see our wiki site.

CentraLUG: 1-Oct-2007: Michael Kazin shows Nagios

The Central NH Linux User Group returns to the Library after a summer hiatus at the Sybase offices in Concord. The monthly meeting of CentraLUG, the Concord/Central NH GNHLUG chapter, happens the first Monday of most months at the New Hampshire Technical Institute‘s Library, room 146, at 7 PM. Next month’s meeting is on October 1st at 7 PM. Directions and maps are available at Open to the public. Free admission. Tell your friends.

At this meeting, Michael Kazin will be presenting Nagios, the Open Source monitoring service. From, “Nagios® is an Open Source host, service and network monitoring program.” Written in Perl and controlled by text configuration files, Nagios offers the ability to alert administrators to a huge number of possible problems with connectivity, speed, or performance. Nagios offers a web interface for close-to-real-time monitoring, email/pager alerts, the ability to launch other programs, etc.”

Michael is a computer consultant at a well-known consultancy working for well-known companies in the military-industrial complex. He is a member of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group’s Board of Directors. Previously, Michael helped run the Rutgers University Student Linux User Group and gained his experience with Nagios by monitoring hundreds of machines in the Rutgers Data Center.

Future Meetings: Currently, we have a couple interesting meetings coming up: November: Ted Roche on Cascading Style Sheets, December: David Berube on Ruby, January: Bruce Dawson on low-power Linux computers. As always, meetings are subject to change. You are encouraged to join the low-traffic announcement list to get announcement and cancellation information.

MonadLUG notes, 13-Sept-2007, Charlie Farinella on digitizing analog vinyl albums

Ten people attended the September meeting of the Monadnock Area Linux User Group, MonadLUG, one of the LUGs of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group, held as usual on the second Thursday of the month at the SAU 1 Administration offices on Hancock Road in Peterborough.

Charlie started off the meeting with a round of introductions, and we welcomed several new members and shared our interests and backgrounds. We covered a bit of news about upcoming events; I mentioned that we try to keep all upcoming meetings on and plugged upcoming meetings by other LUGs as well as the Manchester Tech North conference, the GBC/ACM meeting with Guy Steele, and the SWaNH infoeXchange conference.

Charlie covered upcoming MonadLUG meetings, a record number of them:

  • October 11,. Ben Scott, DNS
  • November 8, Ted Roche, Cascading Style Sheets
  • December 13, Tim Wessels, Revolution OS
  • January 10, Ray Côté, something tbd
  • February 14, Tim Wessels, SuSE Linux Enterprise 10

On to the main presentation, Charlie talked about his project of digitizing his collection (he estimates 800) of vinyl records. (For those not familiar with Charlie’s background, he spent 30 years as a piano technician, and some of his favorite recordings include pianos that he had tuned.) Charlie was not focused on high-fidelity, high-fiddling recordings; rather, just burning CDs he could listen to in the car, so quick, efficient, simple and good quality was the focus. Charlie talked about how he hooked up a consumer-grade turntable and stereo receiver to the computer’s sound card line in (you need to go through the receiver because phono output needs pre-amplification and the signal has a specific profile). Folks in the audience offered that pre-amps were available as standalone units inexpensively on eBay.

Once the sound arrived at the sound card, it needed to be digitized. Charlie talked about how it worked on his Slackware machine, but he could never figure out how to un-mute the sound inputs in Ubuntu. Several folks offered sympathy and similar stories of getting tangled up in the various sound systems (OSS, ALSA) and not getting incoming sound to work well. This is a topic where a local expert could make a very popular meeting, I expect!

Having failed to get the sound mixers and Audacity to record directly, Charlie used the rec command line (from the sox package) to record instead. Charlie provided a handout (which I hope to post to the LUG wiki here) with the commands he used and some additional notes.

Once the sound was captured as a WAV file, he brought the sound into Audacity and used the filters and trimming facilities to amplify the sound to the full dynamic range, remove (or at least reduce) clicking, get rid of background noise, and split the recording into separate tracks. Charlie would save these separately and burn them all to an audio CD to play on the home or car stereo.

It was great to see someone actually use Audacity and understand what many of the buttons and options are used for. I was inspired to try to digitize some of my old fogey music.

Thanks to Charlie for organizing the meeting and doing the presentation.This is one I would encourage the other LUGs to consider asking Charlie to repeat.

MerriLUG, 20-Sept-2007: Styles

Jim Kuzdrall, announcement coordinator for MerriLUG, gets to announce himself as the featured speaker this month at MerriLUG:

  1. Who : Jim Kuzdrall, Intrel Service Company
  2. What : Introduction to OO styles and some handy simplifications
  3. Where: Martha’s Exchange
  4. Day : Thur 20 Sep **Next Week**
  5. Time : 6:00 PM for grub, 7:30 PM for discussion

Overwhelmed by formatting choices in OpenOffice Writer? Continually fiddling with formatting that never comes up quite right for your present document? Help is on the way! A diagrammatic overview of the OO style system is the first step. Why are they needed? Where do they reside? How do they interact? Should the defaults be changed? How do templates come in? What are the “Gotchas”? Next, a different approach to style management deftly cuts the styles and templates down to an easy-to-use few. Once you create your small set of custom styles and templates you will rarely revisit formatting details again. (Yes, the scheme evolved from roff macros.)

Driving directions here.

Clippy on a rampage: exploit code appears for Microsoft Agent bug

September 13, 2007 Computerworld —Exploit code appears for Microsoft Agent bug “It took less than 24 hours for attackers to crank out proof-of-concept code targeting the one critical vulnerability disclosed — and patched — Tuesday morning by Microsoft, security researchers warned.” Ouch. A Day One exploit. Hopefully, Microsoft’s distribution of their updated Agent patches via Windows Update will be speedier than the bad guy’s spreading of their exploit.

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