Archive | March, 2008

What I’ve listened to this week, 29-Mar-2008

PUI (Podcasting Under the Influence), Peter Nikolaidis is “drunk with the power” of swapping roles with his co-host Harlem for this week’s podcast of “Fresh Ubuntu,” titled “Peter’s Big Break.” These two guys put on a very good show each week, with high-quality audio, the week’s Linux/Ubuntu news, a “man page minute,” software reviews and more. Worth a listen. (Yes, they read a letter from me in this episode. At least I didn’t write too gushy a fan letter. How embarrassing.)

Over at The Conversations Network, Executive Director, Doug Kaye has a brief posting and audiocast on the new features of The Conversations Network. They are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides tremendously useful audiocasts for any computer professional. I’m a donor (the fact that I’m a “major” donor is an indication of how underfunded they are!) and encourage you to take a listen and contribute if you find it as valuable as I do.

Jon Udell has a regular “Interviews with Innovators” show on IT Conversations. This week, he talks with Ward Cunningham, famed creator (and co-author of the book of the same name) of “The Wiki Way,” about his latest venture and some of things he’s learned along the way.

Cyndi Mitchell had a sponsored keynote at RailsConf 2007 promoting the RubyWorks stack for the enterprise.

The Essentials of Stackless Python” from PyCon 2007, NOT from the Conversations Network, but direction from

Notes from PySIG, 27-March-2008: urllib2 and PySoy

Seventeen people attended last night’s Python Special Interest Group, one of many active chapters of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group. It was a long meeting, starting at 7 PM with a round of introductions, discussions of gotchas, announcements, problems people are working on (creating a lamda that does ‘Nothing’ — for a certain definition of Nothing!), subclassing Array.Array, learning a few new tricks about SciTE.

Mark had great news on his progress in getting Open Source in the Lawrence Library in Pepperell. The librarians have been very receptive, setting up an area to display information, promoting ongoing meetings, etc. Go, Mark!

Kent put on a very good Kent’s Korner on urllib2, and Arc Riley gave a very interesting presentation on PySoy, a powerful 3D gaming engine driven with Python.

Sean O’Shea provides extensive notes with even more links at his blog — thanks for the great notes!

Thanks to Bill for organizing and announcing, the Amoskeag Business Incubator for providing the great facilities, and to all for attending and participating!

PySIG, 27-March-2008: PySoy and urllib

Organizer Bill Sconce announces the monthly Python Special Interest Group to be held on Thursday, March 27th, at the Amoskeag Business Incubator in Manchester, NH. The main presentation will be on PySoy, a 3-D gaming engine. The Kent’s Korner will feature urllib2, a utility module for working with http, ftp and similar protocols, with supports for POSTs and GETs, authorization and so forth.

Tool of the day: lynx

lynx is a browser that renders html files as text, optionally using color and bolding. A client needed a word count of a bunch of html files and after installing lynx I used it in batch mode:
lynx *.html --dump --nolist | wc
The –dump option dumps the returned text rather than present it in an interactive fashion; the –nolist option prevents all of the anchor tags from being listed at the end of each document. The pipe character pipes the result of the function to the wc (word count) function that displays the number of lines, words and total characters of what it was fed. Following the UNIX principle of “small tools, loosely joined” this function could easily be included in a larger one, with perhaps sed or cut to isolate and format just the one number of interest, or the –word option added to the wc command to return only the word count. There are many ways to do it, another very Good Thing.

Koolu’s Kool! Great OOBE

Arrived from Canada in January and I’ve been having fun messing with it. The Koolu computer is a low-power computer based on a Geode 500 MHz CPU, up to 1 Gb RAM, an optional internal HDD, an external 12VDC power supply. It sips around 9 watts. Standard ports are AC’97 compatible sound-in, sound-out, line-out, 4 x USB 2.0, VGA, 10/100 ethernet. At under $300, this can be a handy utility computer to:

  • Serve as file and print server for a workgroup
  • Act as the front-end to a MythTV DVR
  • Provide backend services like NTP, DNS, etc.
  • An internal web server, source code control repository for a group of developers
  • Kiosk computer (an optional VESA mount will allow it to be mounted to the back of an LCD panel.

And unlike the cheap $299 computers you can buy at big box stores, this one isn’t make of flimsy parts, nor will it make up for its cheap price in electricity payments. (I’m figuring less than $1 USD a month vs. $20 for a 200w big-box.) The base unit (no hdd, $199) is network bootable, the 80 Gb hdd version ($299) comes with Ubuntu preinstalled. Enjoying running it through its paces!

(Unless otherwise noted, all $ prices in CAD)

LifeHacker: Clutter: Celebrate Discardia Starting Today (3/19)

Here’s a holiday season I can get behind! Over at Lifehacker a few days ago, they posted: Clutter: Celebrate Discardia Starting Today

If you ve been putting off doing a good spring cleaning today s the day to bite the bullet March 19th marks the start of “Discardia ” the time of year for you to clean out the old to make room for the new. This five-year-old holiday occurs between the Solistices and Equinoxes today till April 5th this year and its creator describes it thusly:

It makes spring cleaning feel so much more… righteous.

MerriLUG Notes, 20-March-2008

Nine people make it to Thursday’s MerriLUG meeting, held on the very last night of astronomical winter, in this case the third Thursday of March, at Martha’s Exchange in Nashua. As was announced, the meeting was unstructured, informal, social and general conversations. A good time was had by all.

Matt mentioned that he’d recently received the designation of Red Hat Certified Architect, currently the top-tier of RH certification, requiring quite a bit of studying and passing some difficult exams. Congratulations, Matt!

Heather talked about some of the issues with calendaring using Evolution and Mozilla Thunderbird/Lightning, and that lead to a general conversation on the disaster that mankind has made of time zones, daylight savings time, expensive telephone systems that can’t cope, countries that change their minds, and so forth.

Ben was heckled in person, as he showed up. He brought a recent Dell lightweight laptop which he obligingly took apart for us to examine the various peripherals. An attempt at installing 2 Gb of Live Ubuntu onto a 1 Gb memory stick was unsurprisingly unsuccessful. He’s also been trying to get a USB wireless widget to work with Ubuntu. Matt plugged it in and showed it would work with Fedora 8, but then Matt’s an RHCA :).

This lead to a discussion of Network Manager, its strengths and
weaknesses, new features coming soon.

Conversation roamed all over the placing, including:

  • Proper grounding of data center racks.
  • Sprinkler systems.
  • EPO (Emergency Power Off) switches.
  • 50 Hz equipment is not a bargain in 60 Hz countries.
  • Proper lacing of cables.
  • MythTV, HDHomeRuns, TiV0, podcasts
  • the upcoming spam conference at MIT

One fellow, whose name I did not catch (he mentioned he was not good with names; me, neither!) brought along an OLPC and we talked about its engineering genius quite a bit. We didn’t talk much about its retail disaster, thankfully. Beautiful machines!

Kenta and Kevin and Mike also attended and contributed and participated.

Thanks to all for coming and participating, to Jim for arranging and announcing the meeting, to Heather for running the group and to Martha’s for providing the food and beer and facilities. Next month, we hope to have a very exciting meeting, but it’s not yet ready for announcement. Stay tuned, as Heather gave us some hints last night and it sounds very worthwhile!

Shutdown & Restart Shortcuts

A handy utility for an oddball situation: Shutdown & Restart Shortcuts for Windows XP. I have a WinXP Pro machine I’m running remotely via rdesktop/tsclient from my Linux laptop, but I run it as a user with reduced rights, not having administrator rights, as a wise security measure. However, once in a blue moon I need to reboot the machine. The trick: using the “RootShell” link I created a few months ago, making a shell with the Administrator’s context and then execute ‘shutdown’ from there. Shutdown’s syntax should be familiar to any UNIX user, other than the shouted CAPS:


will reboot the machine.

Tim Bray’s keynote at O’Reilly RailsConf, via IT Conversations

What I’m listening to this week: IT Conversations | O’Reilly RailsConf | Tim Bray. From the It Conversations website:

In this keynote presentation, Tim Bray, the Director of Web Technologies at Sun Microsystems, covers a broad range of topics such as Sun’s interest in promoting Ruby, the case for JRuby in the enterprise, the areas Ruby needs to improve on, features that may be good extensions to the Rails framework, REST, HTTP Etags, caching in Rails, the Atom publishing feed, Microsoft’s WCF and Sun’s business model of making all its products open source.

Tim’s a great speaker, and has a lot of interesting insight into Ruby and Java and Sun. He makes no bones about the fact that he’s a paid-for speaker, since Sun was a sponsor of RailsConf, gets in his obligatory plug for Sun, but also talks insightfully about the ways that Ruby can scale better on top of Java, and that Sun’s looking forward to selling lots of boxes when it does.

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