Posts about linux (old posts, page 7)

2007-11-28 14:01

Rethinking Linux Configuration: Part I

I have said Linux sucks. Here's my new project: Make it suck less, one bit at a time.

And I start with one of the big chunks: configuration.

Part I in a longish series (I expect 5 parts at least).

2007-11-16 14:54

What I want for christmas (The cool new trend on preloaded Linux)

Dear fictional character that oppreses the workers of
the North Pole:

This christmas, I want an Asus eee PC, an Everex gPC,
and some bare white box with a nice Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS.

Why am I asking the red menace from the north for these items?

Well, they do have one thing in common: Linux. Another is that they are consumer boxes, not servers.

For many years, one of the huge advantages windows had was that it came preloaded with most PCs. This enabled people to turn a blind eye to windows installation and configuration since it was done by Someone Else (TM).

Since getting Linux has become much easier in the last 10 years [1] this has been very frustrating. Imagine you had something you gave away for free, but people kept using something more expensive because they had to pay for it anyway!

That itches. If Linux was not chosen because it was inferior for the task at hand, that's one thing, but not even being able to be tested because the other product was bundled and paid for? Annoying.

Of course on servers this worked differently. The OS was not the expensive part, and was preloaded less often. Corporations have prearranged licensing terms, and adding things to the mix is simpler.

But for consumers, preloading has been a huge problem [2]

So, if the jolly trespasser brings me what I ordered, I will find the following:

  • Asus eee: A cheap subnotebook with Linux and KDE preloaded.
  • Everex gPC: A cheap Desktop with Linux and Enlightenment(!?) preloaded.
  • Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS: an embedded hypervisor and Linux OS.

The eee is probably the most appealing. It's ideal for many uses:

  • Salesmen who are now using some ungodly Blackberry app (or worse)
  • System and network admins. Really. I would love to have a cheap notebook I won't hesitate bringing to a roof, a bar, the beach, whatever. It would live in my bag. My current notebook? Besides weighting 8 pounds, it's expensive and large. All I need are webpages email and SSH sessions!
  • Kids and students (it's cheap! You can buy a replacement if he drops coffe on it!)
  • Basic users and old people. Really, an office-like thing and a web browser? And I can use it wherever there's wifi? Neat.

And it is going to get a lot cheaper, and it's going to get a lot better. I expect there will be a 32GB, 10" model by the end of next year for $350, and the current model available for $250 (after all, half the components are cheap as dirt already, only flash is expensive, and that's a fluke)

And so on and so forth. If Asus creates a decent dock [3] and a nice rdiff-backup-based backup solution (it should be at least as nice as Apple's Time Machine), this box turns into my main computer whenever I am at home, and is a useful tool on the road. I really can live with those specs.

The gPC is a bit harder to grasp.

First, it's even cheaper. $200 is cheap. The CPU is slowish, but there are a whole range of tasks that are not CPU bound. I really want one of those as a home server. This is the first time I can see one of these ITX boxes as actually cheap not just small (in fact this one is not small at all).

  • I have a TV capture card, I could make a PVR out of it using LinuxMCE? It does have enough CPU for that (since I am doing it with a slower box already)
  • A file server? More than good enough for that.
  • A houseguest computer?
  • A MPD server?
  • All of the above?

And do all this while being quiet and power-efficient? Neat!

And the Phoenix PC 3.0 BIOS simply would be cool because I can virtualize without jumping through any hoops. This one is still fuzzy for me, but I only found out about it today. I need time for things to grow.

Why do I think these boxes mark a trend? Because they are definitely low-end products. These are meant to be made by thousands and hundreds of thousands, and make small money on each.

The makers are being smart about providing as little functionality as they can and making them simple, niche, consumer products instead of monstruosly powerful Linux monsters (sorry for how ugly that sounds).

Another factor is the huge growth of web apps that work well on non-IE browsers. This is making the OS irrelevant just like Netscape hoped in 1996. If the OS is invisible, Linux won.

So, Santa, for this christmas I ask for all these toys,
and if it has to be only one, please make it the Asus eee.

                                            Roberto Alsina

PS: and if you don't do your part, the raindeer's a goner!
[1] Look, no need to create 30 floppies! You can add a driver without recompiling the kernel! You don't need to know what a Modeline is!
[2] The other one is probably games, but that's a different problem. There are whole markets where gaming is not an issue.
[3] A wireless dock with place for a IDE disk or two, an optical drive, a powered USB hub, a card reader. Hardware costs? Maybe U$S 50 + disks?

2007-11-14 10:34

Lateral Opinion's greatest hits

Since this blog just broke the 100K visitors barrier yesterday (although it had about 150K more when it was, it's a good time to revisit some of the old stuff that was somewhat good.

So here are (IMVHO) the best ten things I remember writing in this blog in the last 7 years.

  1. Data-aware widgets in PyQt

    This article describes a cool (again, IMVHO) way to implement DB-backed apps using PyQt. It's short, working code and you end being able to create neat stuff. I liked it, noone else did.

  1. Be a good lamarckian froggy

    It has it all! Evolution theory (theories)! It pretends to provide insights into FLOSS! Movie-critic-like quotes in the comments!

    best blog i've read in a long, long time.

    —Aaron Seigo

  1. Rapid Application development using PyQt and Eric3 ... in realtime!

    An original premise, a semi-useful app written, got good reviews. I still like it, but sadly it's not a format that ages well, since you can't update the tutorial for newer versions of PyQt.

  1. Squid authentication via POP or IMAP

    It solves a real problem, does it elegantly, and I still am installing it.

  1. Shared: Narnia, The Da Vinci Code is Broken., Kong at dawn, Matrix Revolutions, Troy (not McClure), Double feature at the Electric

    I sometimes try to "review" movies in an oddball way. Please read them if you saw the movies. I think I made sense.

  1. Skeletons of stories that won't ever be written.

    I have no idea why I wrote it, but I still like it.

  1. The world cup and I

    Too sentimental, but hey, I did feel that way.

  1. Frodo as a Hacker

    The subtitle is "Shameless explosion of nerditude." and it is that. I am at the same time very ashamed of writing it, and rather amazed by it.

  1. The Linux Booting Process Unveiled

    One of my most popular articles. It's even cited as a reference on Linux booting in Wikipedia! (I edited it because they had the link wrong, though). It was even copied without atribution a couple of times.

  1. A Modest Usability Improvement

    Other articles had more links, more views, or more comments, but this article inspired the creation of two new apps that are much better than what was around before I wrote it, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. So, check it out, then use Speedcrunch or Abakus instead of kcalc (or wincalc).

2007-10-17 12:13

Gonna get me one of these. Oh yes.

It's the second coming of the Toshiba Libretto, only this time it's:

  1. Cheaper
  2. Filled with Linux goodness.

It's the Asus eee. And the default UI is some sort of weirdized KDE. And it is going to sell a whole lot.

Really, lugging my current notebook is tiring, not having my own tools when I go to a customer's is annoying. This baby should fix that.

Sure, you Word/Excel/Powerpoint jockeys are going to be annoyed with a 800x600 screen, but it's awesome for ssh sessions.

2007-09-05 09:46


Well, it seems I am in trouble for PyWeek.

Why? Because it's wednesday and I have done nothing. Nothing! It's because I have been working a lot, really, and I have a 4 month baby, too.

So, I am upping the ante.

I will do a PyDay.

I am taking tomorrow off (yeah, right!) and I'm doing the game in one day. Maybe I will scrounge a few hours on sunday, too.

It will probably not be fit for the contest because:

  • I will use PyQt
  • I won't test it in any platform other than my Linux box

But here's the game concept (BTW: Twisted sucks as a theme. It sucks really, really, really hard!):

According to the dictionary, Twisted also means perverted. So, this game, Twisted Little Boy is about a bad boy. A really bad boy. But a clever one. He creates machines using random equipment he finds to do evil, really mean things.

I will probably do a live-blog thing like those tutorials I wrote years ago about PyQt.

There's a Google code project (obviously empty):

See you all tomorrow.

2007-08-11 23:15

Thinking about this blog.

I suppose it happens to everyone once in a while, and it has happened to me often in the past, but I am thinking if I should keep on writing this blog, or if some large change is needed.

Here are some random things from my head:

  1. Almost noone reads it. Really. It has less than 40 subscribers. That's pathetic for a blog that has content for over 7 years :-)

  2. Maybe I should post in spanish, or at least bilingually.

  3. Maybe I should write more features. When I write a longish piece and announce it, there is a respectable traffic surge.

  4. On the other hand, I enjoy writing it. And it's really very little effort (specially now, with BartleBlog ;-)

  5. Maybe it should be more focused in one area, make it a python programming blog, or a tutorials blog, or something like that.

  6. But I am not a focused person. I am a generalist. This week I have worked in the following things:

    • VoIP
    • Django
    • PyQt
    • Linux sysadmining
    • Firewall/Proxy integration with windows clients
    • Consulting in the most generic sense, sitting with a company's IT staff and thinking about their situation.
    • Learning PyGame

    And this was in 5 days of work. If I listed what I have done this year, it would take me 500 items. I am broad, how could my blog be narrow?

  7. Maybe it's just not interesting? Or badly done?

  8. Is it too nerdy? Is it not nerdy enough?

  9. I have had a blog with a small readership for 7 years, why is it bothering me now?

  10. If I stop, it doesn't matter, I can always pick it up again later when I feel like writing.

So, there. You, the 40 guys, comment on it if you want ;-)

2007-08-06 17:44

If you try to use quotactl on Linux...

Always remember to do this:


Or else, your code will break in misterious ways.

That's because sys/quota.h has this:

 * Select between different incompatible quota versions.
 * Default to the version used by Linux kernel version 2.4.21
 * or earlier (in RHEL version 1 is AS2.1, version 2 is RHEL3 and later).  */

Why? I have no idea. But this is true at least on Centos4, I have no clue of this is also true for your distro, but it is sooooo wrong :-(

2007-08-02 08:42

More about the Asus eee, and random venting.

As I posted before I am pretty hyped about the Asus eee, the $199 laptop.

Ok, maybe the $250 laptop, according to latest rumours.

Then again, I am not the only one. Here's an interesting thread about what you could do with one of them.

Now, the random venting:

A fairly large portion of Linux users are very annoying. It's normal, since a very large portion of humanity is annoying too.

However, consider this post, which I will quote because I refuse to link to it, about my cron/at article:

GreyGeek - Subject: Another "I hate Linux" article.... ( Jul 31, 2007, 17:18:34 )

Oh, yeah. That's what the article looks like. A linux hater's rant. Sure, I spent three hours doing research and writing telling you half a dozen ways to make Linux better (IMNVHO) because I hate Linux.

as if we aren't getting a FLOOD of them these days. I often wonder if Microsoft has began "donating" Ferrari laptop to bloggers who rant on Linux.

At least the ferrari laptop matches my car! Accesorizing is important!

I wonder if it's because this guy didn't understand a word I wrote? Or is he just paranoid? I know he's not the author of cron (he once posted a comment here [1]) so it's not a wounded ego or something like that [2].

[1] At least I think that was him. Why would anyone pretend to be Paul Vixie? Now how's that for name dropping. Has anyone else with a Wikipedia entry left a comment in this blog?
[2] And I don't expect that article to be hurtful, really, or I wouldn't have written it.

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