DLSLUG: Forecast is Clouds, and Nifties! Notes from 3-Sept-2009 meeting

Fifteen people ranging in age from 4 years old to, well, quite a bit older than that, attended the September meeting of the Dartmouth – Lake Sunapee Linux User Group. DLSLUG meets on the first Thursday of most months somewhere on the Dartmouth campus. Join the announcement list to keep up with the latest news. The meeting consisted of the usual round of announcements, two short presentations, informal quick presentations by the assembled crowd — Nifties! — and discussion that went on until the janitors kicked us out.

Bill Stearns demonstrated the drop-dead simplicity of configuring and launching a virtual machine on the Rackspace Cloud (http://www.rackspacecloud.com/) Computing site. Nearly as quickly as he could describe it, Bill set up a new machine, choose the memory and disk size, the version of operating system, and got the machine up and running (he had previously registered, so he had an account and payment information on file). The costs for machines are based purely on how much you use, the hours the machine is running and the bandwidth consumed. A minimal machine can be deployed at 1.5 cents per hour, and a busy machine can cost less than $60 a month. This is well worth looking into if you’d like to deploy a backup DNS server or your entire online facilities.

Rich Brown of Dartware showed what his company has been up to in extending the reach of the InterMapper (http://www.intermapper.com/) network monitoring software to work on, and with, the Amazon Web Services (AWS), EC2 and S3. AWS is the more mature service and seems to be targeted more at enterprise customers. Amazon offers a cloud monitoring service and APIs that let you launch additional instances of your saved imaged machines as needed. InterMapper is adding some interesting facilities to the service, and have free 5-user licenses available for the asking.

Alan Johnson showed a nifty on the command line pv tool (Progress Viewer) which is a classic small-tools-loosely-joined *nix tool: a  pipe that can display the progress of data through that pipe. Alan showed a simple example of cat’ing /dev/zero to /dev/null and sticking pv in the middle to show the progress. Cognoscenti in the audience pointed out that cat wasn’t necessary, and using pv with directly piped input and output displayed throughput of an order of magnitude increase. Debate ensued as to the many causes likely to contribute to this effect. Nerds are so cute.

P.S. Those interested in testing pv on their own machines should find it part of many Linux distributions. The caution at the end of the discussion section of the man page (http://linux.die.net/man/1/pv) should be taken seriously.


James Murza showed us some code he’d been working on. It looks up words you specify on wiktionary (http://www.wiktionary.org/), finds all of the translations wiktionary offers and calculates a numeric value based on some semantic qualities of the word for each language. Then, James offers a PHP page where you can list the relative differences between any two languages, based on the words you’ve selected. So, for example, French and Spanish words tended to score close together, while Tagalog and Frisian had little in common.


Bill McGonigle demonstrated his Wok-Key login, a very clever Javascript routine for allowing you to log into your SquirrelMail front end from a machine you might not trust to share your password with. Instead of typing your actual password, the Wok-Key code generates a table on the fly (different each time) of two-letter pairs matched to all the keyboard characters, and displays a table to the screen of the letter-pairs laid out like a QWERTY keyboard, upper- and lower-case. Rather than typing your password, you type the equivalent two-letter pairs, and the Javascript on the page converts your choice to the password to be sent to the backend. This means a keystroke logger will never see your password, and it is unlikely to be saved in a cache on the browser.


Lloyd Kvam announced there were two new additions to the library, one book on Erlang (http://www.pragprog.com/titles/jaerlang/programming-erlang) and a DVD on Perl (http://www.informit.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=0137001274). Any GNHLUG member (that’s you!) can check out a book by contacting Lloyd. The list of books in our library can be found at: http://dlslug.org/library.html

Bill McGonigle said that he’s trying to line up the correct facilities for the next meeting, and if we’re able to get a room that will support all our laptops, we’ll go for a session on encryption and a key-signing party. Stay tuned for a confirming announcement.

Thanks to Bill McG for organizing the meeting, to Dartmouth College for the great facilities, to Bill Stearns and Rich Brown and all the Nifties! presenters for the participation.

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