More Debian Updates

June 18, 2010

I just manually upgraded (via aptitude) my laptop and server. The Debian security list hasn’t posted announcements yet but there are several patched packages in the queue including bind, dns, samba, sudo, and pmount. I noticed some of these — bind, samba, and sudo as far as I remember — were also updated in SL5 recently.

The lack of new content reflects that I’ve been extremely busy lately.

Debian Updates – Kernel 2.6 and More

May 25, 2010

Debian has updates for the following packages:

Keep your system patched!

TechCrunch Circle Jerk Hits It Over iPad

May 24, 2010

I don’t know why I’m entering anything else about iPads, but TechCrunch held a “Disrupt” event and the media types involved in a forum about the iPad couldn’t stop gushing about it. Warning, the article has a scary NSFW image up some fat chick’s skirt (heh, I’m exaggerating that but  I’m going to watch my stats to see how many hits that link gets from my site).

Some of the claims are a bit wild. Anything which says “Apple is in control…” is a bit redundant considering what control freaks the folks in Cupertino are about everything. That includes the control they want over their entire ecosystem, which leads to inquiries from the government about anti-trust. Anyway, the article includes this bit of puffery:

Apple is in control right now because they’re the first to market with a killer product, but others will emulate them, reasons Pearlstine. He believes a lot of the content on these type of tablets [sic] will eventually be web-based rather than app-based…

I’m not convinced it’s a killer product. I’m also unconvinced it’s the first such device to market. It’s certainly been the most (over-)hyped of such devices. And Apple will spare no expense to continue over-hyping it as revolutionary when they’re only taking an existing platform and implementing it in a strategy of selling (and tightly controlling) applications users can buy from them. This is a marketing revolution, not a technology revolution. It’s also not so revolutionary anymore considering it’s the same fucking model they’ve successfully used for iPod (plus iTunes) and duplicated with iPhone (and the AppStore); lure consumers in with overpriced and underwhelming hardware, lock them into your services (which is where the money really rolls in), then count the suckers’ money. Third times the charm is not a revolution.  When the media slather all over themselves about a device and/or the potential of the ecosystem a company like Apple builds around it, I yawn. It’s just a business model.

The worst part of all this, though, is that when a bunch of media types pretty much think the same about something, some of them probably aren’t thinking at all.

GFY, Dave

May 23, 2010

I’m catching up on podcasts this afternoon and just got to lottalinuxlinks, starting with a mindless diatribe about going ogg-only. This is a fucked up decision for a lotta reasons. Chief among them deciding to call it an “oggcast” instead of a podcast. WTF…?

If you don’t want to offer your show in mp3, that’s fine. But spare your listeners the goddamn boilerplate advocacy lecture about it if you’re going to base it on phony arguments. These are the reasons given:

  • freedom
  • convenience (see laziness)
  • “the right thing to do” (whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean)
  • laziness (not only about maintaining his site, but also intellectual laziness)
  • “turn about’s fair play” (whatever the fuck that means)
  • “stuff like that” (whatever the fuck that means)

Why prattle on for a bit about how ogg is the codec for Linux (“the file format of Linux”)? What the hell about flac? Not lossy enough for ya?

I know very few Linux or BSD or OpenSolaris users who rely solely on ogg for anything. And quite frankly, people who get that worked up about such things aren’t my kind of crowd anyway.

This isn’t about freedom. It sure as hell isn’t about choice. The moment you make a choice to force users or listeners to use this format or that format, you’re a fucking authoritarian — you represent the antithesis of freedom. You’re forcing people to change feed subscriptions, change links in scripts they use to download the same format they always have. Stop going on about it as if you’re doing something noble. It isn’t noble because you’re forcing your own demented values on others (unless others take your invitation to stop listening, which I probably will).

It’s not about freedom in the sense of a patented format, either. The legal issues don’t surround the actual file but rather the encoder and/or decoder. My media players are all legal for playing mp3 files. So are most of my computers. Some of my media players don’t play ogg. One of our computers doesn’t play ogg, either (and NO, I don’t care to add something capable of playing the less-common ogg format on Windows since Windows is quite capable of playing more ubiquitous and technically-superior mp3 and wmv formats).

Why not play ogg on one of the media players? Because ogg sucks ass. Technically it sucks ass. If it were technically-superior, more people would be using it beyond the handful of desktop Linux users who never bothering to install “tainted” codecs which ironically seem to perform better under Linux than the codec for Linux. Most of the world doesn’t use it. Not even the “free” (as in software, as in freedom, as in…) world. I’ve converted most of my media to mp3 so I can play it on any of my players. Including the stereo in my car, which doesn’t do ogg.

The only people who think this is about freedom and “doing the right thing” are poseurs and demagogues who think freedom is offering people fewer choices. Microsoft Windows isn’t that fucking restrictive out of the box. Most Linux distros are. Now so are Linux podcasts. Well, another one of them anyway. (Edit: I understand why most Linux distros don’t include “dirty” or “tainted” codecs by default. That isn’t the issue here. Every single distro, save for a few nutball ones like Gnewsense, make it possible for users to find, install, and use such software. Dave, why did you install Debian instead of Gnewsense if this is really of such importance to you?)

I don’t know what the fuck you mean by “turn about’s fair play” (what did the mp3-subscribers of your podcast do to warrant turn about?!) or “stuff like that.” I do accept the laziness/convenience argument. Even when you admit you’ve decreased the quality of mp3 podcasts while you increased the quality of the ogg podcasts (cripple-ware, anyone?). You gave the choice of formats, now you take it away. Fine.

But spare everyone the lecture and sophistry about how you’re doing “the right thing.” Didn’t stop you from doing “the wrong thing” all this time, did it.

You’re a charlatan, Dave. If you think this is the right thing, what are you going to do to make restitution to the patent holders for the mp3 codec for all your other mp3casts (heh)?

You give a few choices: convert the ogg podcasts to mp3,  go purchase an ogg player, or go away.

No, asshole, you go away. You’re not the one who’s being forced to “jump through hoops.” You’re a poseur who wants your listeners to jump through them. I’m not one to ask how high, I’m one to tell you to go fuck yourself.

Scientific Linux 5.5 Released

May 19, 2010

SL55 is now officially released. Release notes are here.

More ratmenu tips

May 18, 2010

I see I’ve been getting a lot of hits in the past few days for searches related to ratmen, ratmenu, and 9menu. As I’ve written before, these work very similarly. In a nutshell, you use these to create shell scripts to provide menus for ratpoison or other window managers.

What can you do with these menus? Whatever you want. You can use standard application-centric menus to open whatever application. You can customize them so you open specific files in certain applications. You can start or stop processes (mind your permissions; gksu/gksudo are beneficial if you’re going to start/stop/restart daemons like sshd, cupsd, httpd, etc.). These can then be launched via keybindings set up in .ratpoisonrc or whatever configuration file your chosen window manager uses (a few years ago, I used ratmen with oroborus since oroborus lacks a menu; I set keybindings for ratmen in my .oroborusrc).

This example is more ratpoison-specific because some of the commands in this particular menu (~/bin/ pipe out to the ratpoison status message area. I wanted a menu with system commands and to get information quickly even if I’m not sitting in front of an open terminal, so, for instance, I can see what’s happening or running while working in or gimp or a browser. If you’re using ratmen(u)/9menu in other window managers, you could send to xmessage or zenity or whatever you want.


ratmenu -fg "#ffa500" -bg "#444444" -align center -style dreary \
"netstat" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(netstat -a | head -n 18)'" \
"top" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(top -b -n 1 | head -n 24)'" \
"w" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(w)'" \
"free" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(free -mt)'" \
"mount" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(mount)'" \
"ssh?" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(ps aux | grep -i ssh)'" \
"screen -list" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(screen -list)'" \
"screen(s) ps?" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(ps aux | grep -i screen)'" \
"mount sda1" "pmount /dev/sda1" \
"umount sda1" "pumount /dev/sda1" \
"who" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(who)'" \
"last -20" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(last -20)'" \
"temperature" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(cat /proc/acpi/thermal_zone/THM/temperature)'" \
"battery" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(cat /proc/acpi/battery/BAT0/state)'" \
"cpu info" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(cat /proc/cpuinfo)'" \
"uname" "ratpoison -c 'echo $(uname -a)'"

The first line, of course, is the shebang. The next line runs ratmenu (or ratmen or 9menu), and I have this menu set up with a light orange on dark grey background with the “dreary” menu style allowed in ratmenu (the difference between dreary and snazzy is how the menu selection works; in snazzy, the menu choices scroll up or down to a fixed reversed selection, while in dreary the choices are fixed or static and the reversed selection choice scrolls up or down as you navigate it with the up/down arrows). Then come your menu options. As this is a shell script, it can be written in one line or in multiple lines as above. If it’s in multiple lines, separate them with backslashes so the script is read by the shell as one line (no backslash on the last line).

I also use a separate menu for work documents so they can be opened in either emacs or OOo or gimp as needed. My previous ratpoison entry (ratpoison, xnest, jwm, GIMP) noted that I chose to start using GIMP under another window manager using xnest. I sometimes use GIMP to clean up charts and such for work. In order to keep all the work stuff together and to not have to toggle between the xnest window and everything else, I have separate options in my work menu to open things in the X display with my alternate window manager (currently oroborus). In other words, that menu allows me to stay within oroborus (or jwm or twm or whatever) so I can see, for example, how charts look in documents, while ratpoison continues managing everything else. I still have entries that open things in more standard fashion so that it’s all under ratpoison rather contained in another xnest’ed window manager.

Finally, if you’re using Debian and want to override the recommended 9menu when you install ratpoison and use ratmenu instead, use aptitude (as root or via sudo):

aptitude install -R ratpoison ratmenu

For what it’s worth, I have “sudo aptitude install -R” aliased in my .bashrc (alias debinstall=”sudo aptitude install -R”) so I don’t end up installing more than I absolutely have to.

Finally, understanding how to use a powerful text editor like emacs or vim comes in very handy when editing menus like these, especially if you’re setting up to open specific files with identical or similar commands. I’ll usually go through a process of getting a file list from a directory and then recording a macro to insert text down each line to set up the menu. It’s easier and much faster to either pipe a list of files or insert them within the editor (in emacs: C-u M-! ls /path/to/dir — or, my preference, C-u M-! find ~/ -name “*.m3u”to get full paths) and then do the most repetitive things, such as add commands and shell punctuation, via macro.

It took me less than a minute to do a 100+ line ratmenu for my playlists since every command option is the same (“mocp -cap /path/to/file.m3u” \).

The important thing is to set things up so it’s easy to use and uses the least amount of work.

Steve Jobs: iPad Revolution = Freedom from Porn?

May 17, 2010

WTF is this all about? I checked but it’s not April 1st. Un-fucking-believable and Apple’s NewSpeak “freedom” is anything but. Devices belong to owners. Content either belongs to device owners or is licensed by copyright holders. When Apple sets itself as final arbiter of the whole ecosystem, there is no freedom except to walk away from their death-gripped devices and App Store.

If I want Flash, that should be between me and Adobe — not between Apple and Adobe. And if I want a Hustler app, that should be a private arrangement between me and Larry Flynt. Go fuck yourself, Steve Jobs.

This Week in Enterprise Linux

May 16, 2010

CentOS hit 5.5-release. The full release notes are here.

Scientific Linux is now on a second release candidate for 5.5.

TinyCore 3.0 Alpha on an Ancient ThinkPad

May 15, 2010

I deleted an earlier post related to my first look at TinyCore 3.0 alpha because I hadn’t had much time to do more than boot it. I still regret I haven’t had much time to set it up and do more with it, but I did more this afternoon than I had in the week or so previously. And I did it on my oldest remaining computer.

I decided to see how well TinyCore 3.0, which is still currently in public alpha testing, would do on my ancient ThinkPad. The worst issue I had was setting it up to boot. I wanted to put TinyCore onto a partition via USB, as that would be better than burning a CD and faster than setting up my network so I could PXE boot it (which I would consider if I had more reason to do so). I presently have SL54 installed on it, so I put tinycore.gz and the TinyCore bzImage in /boot and edited the GRUB menu.lst to boot TinyCore. TinyCore works well like this and can live inside another distro (I’d call it the “parasitic” method for using TC/MC but there has to be a better, more positive way to put it).

TinyCore boots up with a shiny new logo on a medium gray background.

I think it looks nice on other colors, too, but they need to be lighter hues. Like white:

Or even yellowish orange (#ffa500):

I’ll fix the logo soon so it can be used on any background.

I also had to set up X to accomodate the 800×600 resolution because I didn’t set a cheatcode at boot (doh!). I set the desktop color on red for the hell of it.

As this ThinkPad lacks a wired ethernet port and I have no wired ethernet near anywhere I’d use it, I had to manually download the appropriate extensions — in my case, b43-fwcutter.tcz, openssl-0.9.8.tcz, wireless_tools.tcz, wireless-, and wpa_supplicant.tcz (I also downloaded the zd1211 firmware extension just in case the Broadcom 43xx-based PCMCIA card gave me any crap and I needed to resort to my USB adapter) — to get connected. I then found the proprietary firmware required for the card and copied it to /lib/firmware. I had a copy of my wpa_supplicant.conf already on the USB stick which had my extensions, so I copied it over and set up wpa_supplicant and started udhcpc. I was connected.

I then installed a few quick extensions to test audio. I made my quick wrapper to use mocp for pls streams from and soon had streaming audio.

As you can see, this is a really old laptop — 500mhz and not very much RAM. It was great under Damn Small Linux back in the day. It still works so it gets re-purposed from time to time. I think I’m most likely going to set it up in my stereo cabinet and use it to stream audio through the stereo and to keep the thing out of earshot because its hard drive is clunky and the fan is really loud. Fortunately, it doesn’t run hot (unless compiling) so I’m not worried about it overheating in there.

I also installed sshfs so I could mount my server locally on the old laptop. I used elinks to open a file locally rather than through the http server (I was basically using elinks as a file browser).

RAM use was pretty high because I installed Opera, elinks, audio drivers, mocp, etc. I don’t think I’d do that again. Especially Opera.

In fact, X is overkill on this. If I set this up as a streaming audio client for the stereo, I’ll likely use MicroCore instead. That’s an article for another day…

Updated AA1 Page – SL Content

May 7, 2010

I’ve been updating my Aspire One page as I’ve had time the past couple days to reflect that it’s running Scientific Linux. I now have separate sections on installation, configuration, hardware, software, etc. I’ll probably make a few more additions/edits shortly to clean it up and also to elaborate on a few things like reconfiguring services.

The page is now much more SL-specific than it is for the AA1 (aside from the hardware list).