Posts about linux (old posts, page 8)

2009-06-20 13:06

Why I STILL use Arch Linux

Yesterday I had one of those moments where I feel very happy about my distro of choice, Arch Linux. Since the last time I posted about Arch seems to have been over two years ago (time flies when you are having fun!), I think it's time to explain it.

I wanted to test rst2pdf against reportlab from SVN, wordaxe from SVN and docutils from SVN, and I wanted it to be simple.

Solution: I just packaged them in AUR!

Now, whenever I need to check rst2pdf agains wordaxe trunk, I just need to yaourt -S python-wordaxe-svn and I can go back to stable wordaxe with yaourt -S python-wordaxe.

The svn package will always be the current trunk without any modifications, and I can switch back and forth in about 45 seconds, without messing up my system's packages.

Also, I can keep my installed SVN packages updated by doing yaourt -Su --devel every now and then.

How would I have done that using Debian or a RPM distro? I suppose by going around the packaging system (which I hate) or by doing a private repo (which is so ... lame?) or by doing a public repo (which is freaking work).

Really, if you are a coder, I can't think of a Linux distro that makes life easier than Arch. Pretty much everything is there (12K packages in unsupported!) and if it isn't, it's a 5-minute job to slap it into AUR and help the community.

Suppose you are doing a KDE app. On most distros you need to install your own from-source copy of kdelibs to have the latest and make sure it's not screwed by distro-specific patches.

On Arch? Patching upstream is frowned upon. Not having the latest version is frowned upon. So it's pretty much the ideal environment to develop against KDE, or GNOME, or PyQt or whatever.

If my life was not 150% committed already, I would try to become an Arch developer, or at least a TU (Trusted User). Maybe next life!

2009-03-16 20:40

Grrr... I want one of these. I just need a reason.

I just saw this post about the SheevaPlug. I need one. First I need a reason to need it.

  • Backup server? Add a USB disk enclosure, put everything in a metal box, install bacula and-or rdiff-backup?
  • Same hardware, Home MPD server?
  • Idem, home SAN?
  • Portable demo server? I could install some solutions on SD cards and show them for clients with this and my netbook.

Suggestions accepted...

2009-03-03 23:42

Blog readership statistics.

I am not sure if this is good or bad:


On one hand, I have more subscribers than ever, even considering when this blog was in planetkde (BTW: maybe I should add my pyqt feed there again? Nah, I don't qualify as "active KDE contributor")

The dip in the last three monts was because I just posted nothing, and now I am posting again, it's doing well.

On the other hand, I am at 50-some subscribers, which is a bit pathetic for a blog that has existed for over 9 years ;-)

On the gripping hand (Larry Niven FTW!) I am having more fun with the blog than I had in quite a while, so I would post even if noone read it.

And in case you are wondering what that peak of over 6000 reach (the average is under 100!) it's this. That post had over 12000 visitors. My second most popular story had only 3800.


Here's the most popular content in the last 2 years or so, selected from 783 posts (784 with this one) and 47 longer stories:

  1. 12228 visitors: Windows: My eXPerience

    So I wanted to see what windows looked like. Don't worry, I feel better now.

  2. 3797 visitors: Making Linux systems that don't suck. Part II

    A rant on cron and at. I never imagined this would be number 2.

  3. 2968 visitors: BOP: Ball Oriented programming

    I am rather proud of this one: a pyqt-based graphical, animated interpreter for FLIP, a language based on balls :-)

  4. 2888 visitors: Good News: Linux gives life to old hardware. Bad News: Maybe in some cases it shouldn't.

    Silly, yes, but a cool picture :-)

  5. 1870 visitors: PyCells: The Python SpreadSheet redux

    My second or third attempt at writing a toy spreadsheet using python. I have been at it for about 5 years, apparently.

    This is popular... even when the code it describes is based on a completely broken library!

  6. 1841 visitors: Squid authentication via POP or IMAP

    This was already about 4 years old when I started counting, so I have no idea how many visitors it really had. It is a handy script, I still use it sometimes!

  7. 1813 visitors: The Linux Booting Process Unveiled

    I really expected this one to be much higher. It's even linked from wikipedia! Every day it has 2 or 3 hits. Then again, the first 3 years are not being counted ;-)

  8. 1706 visitors: Queue Management for Qmail

    While the tool it introduces is lame nowadays, the ideas are sound, and it explains a real problem.

  9. 1548 visitors: Custom widgets using PyQt

    Very obsolete, noone should read that.

  10. 1505 visitors: How to make your own distro in 3 not-so simple steps

    Oh, this one. It is wrong. It gives bad advice. Yet noone seems to notice ;-) Not my best idea, not my best effort, still get email about it every month or so.

2008-09-09 16:34

Old fashioned mail: Cone

I had one too many problems with kmail from KDE4 in my eee with Kubuntu, and sylpheed-claws is just unusable in a small screen (the huge widgets! the non-hidable things all over the interface!) I decided to get old fashioned and try a console mail reader.

I was a pine user for many years, and a mutt user for a while, and I was deeply disappointed that the last three years have been bad for these programs.

Just because you run in a terminal, there's no reason to be hard to configure! After spending 20 minutes trying to get a decent IMAP account setup (just two IMAP accounts) in alpine and another 10 wondering if mutt really had no place in the UI for account configuration (and whether the Debian/KUbuntu default "commented" config file is the product of hard drugs), I tried Cone.

It was bliss. It was all I remembered from pine years ago (on local accounts) only over IMAP.

Easy to configure, easy to use, quick, capable. I was in love all over again.

While I will keep using KMail on my main notebook under Arch Linux where I had no reliability problems whatsoever, I have Cone configured in my server's shell account and in the eee.

2008-04-15 16:14

Linux as a windows crutch: Sending SMS

Suppose you want to send SMS messages from windows through a bluetooth connection to a phone.

I am sure you can make it work. On the other hand, I already had it working on Linux... so you can just use this on a friendly Linux box, and send SMS messages by accessing a special URL:

#!/usr/bin/env python
from colubrid import BaseApplication, HttpResponse, execute
import os

class SMSApplication(BaseApplication):

  def process_request(self):
      numero = self.request.args.get('numero')
      mensaje = self.request.args.get('mensaje')
      [entrada,salida]=os.popen4('/usr/bin/gnokii --sendsms %s'%numero,mode='rw')
      response = HttpResponse(msg)
      response['Content-Type'] = 'text/plain'
      return response

if __name__ == '__main__':
  execute(SMSApplication,debug=True, hostname='mybox.domain.internal', port=8080,reload=True)

If someone opens http://mybox.domain.internal:8080/?numero=1234?mensaje=hola%20mundo it sends "hola mundo" to the 1234 number.

I suppose I could call this a web telephony service or somesuch, but it's actually just the 5'solution that came to mind.

It uses a silly little not-a-web-framework called colubrid instead of something you may know, because I wanted to keep it simple, and it doesn't get much simpler than this.

2008-04-04 11:41

This is why Linux is not ready for the desktop

If you delete the empty directory /var/lib/xkb, then enable the KDE keyboard layout switcher, the up-arrow key works like print-screen.

At least on my box it does. It took me a month to figure it out.

2008-03-11 14:23

Good News: Linux gives life to old hardware. Bad News: Maybe in some cases it shouldn't.

I was in one of my customer's datacenters the other day, and while I do most work remotely, I had to take this opportunity to take some snapshots of their proxy server.

This post is just a bit of fun. This is not supposed to be their server, it was just a stopgap measure because of multiple hardware failures. This is a large, well managed company, and this irregular situation will be fixed soon. And anyway, it is working just fine.

As you know, Linux can do that kind of job easy without much hardware requirements. After all, it has to handle at most about 3Mbps of data, and this box has 2GB of ram, so there's plenty of room for a speedy cache.

So, let's go for some good news/bad news.

Good news: It's a true-blue IBM Server! Bad news: It's a IBM Netfinity 5000 (model 3Ry)!


Here is some tech info from IBM about it.

Good news: It has 2 CPUs! Bad news: They are two 450Mhz Pentium II CPUs.

Good News: it has hot-swappable SCSI discs! Bad news: you have no discs for that controller, so we will use this 8GB IDE (PATA) disk!


And will leave it just sitting there by the CD unit, besides the huge gaping hole in the front where the SCSI discs would be.

Bad News: it has a tendence to overheating! Good News: You have a place to keep your coffe warm!


2008-01-23 10:59

Asus eee PC 4G Surf: First impressions from an old Linux Guy

I finally got my eee PC last saturday. It's the 4G Surf in Galaxy Black [1].

Everyone says the same thing, and so do I: you can't understand how small the thing is until you see it.

And then everyone takes a picture of it sitting inside its previous notebook. So will I, 2 times.

Here's the eee with a HP Pavillion zd7000, which has a 17" widescreen:


Here's the eee with a Toshiba Satellite with a very unusual 16.6" 4:3 ratio screen:


But is it the smallest notebook I ever had? Nope.

Here you can see the eee, a Toshiba Libretto and a HP Jornada 720 laying over the HP notebook, so you can get an idea of how much smaller all are. The Libretto is smaller but thicker and feels heavier.


Regarding construction quality, the screen is decent, if you can live with the low resolution (I can). The keyboard is ok, even though I have large fingers [2] and the general construction feels good (not creaky, no flex [3]), but nothing remarkable.

The software... it works. But I am loooking to replace it with another distro ASAP. Let's get into some detail...

  1. Xandros package availability is abysmal. There's little, what's there is old, what I like is usually missing, if you start pulling Debian packages it will break, and if you don't want to use the Xandros File Manager you may have to do evil stuff [4]
  2. KDE 3.4 is worse than 3.5. There's no kopete?
  3. The menus are incomplete (in both the simple and advanced modes). There are a bunch of things installed but not showing.
  4. If you have only 4GB of storage, little RAM, and a slowish CPU, building from source is probably not a good idea, so I can't install that way even if I felt like it.
  5. No PyQt4? That means I can't blog from it :-(
  6. On the other hand, everything in the eee works using xandros, and I don't know if it will on another distro.

The only changes I made so far are:

  1. Switched to full desktop (KDE) mode.
  2. I got rid of the silly unionfs situation (BTW: I did it using the instructions at, but used RIPLinuX as the USB bootable distro, it's the easiest of them all)
  3. I removed a lot of garbage (got 2.2GB free now)
  4. Moved logs to a tmpfs

Other than that, it's still the original stuff, and I have been using it to work around the house while watching the baby, and from bars, and such.

Happyness-meter: 8 out of 10 so far.

[1] A huge thank you to Feray Girgin, my mother in law who brought it from the US :-D
[2] My hands look like crippled obese octopuses (octopii?)
[3] Being so small, it's not supposed to flex even if it were badly built, I guess.
[4] I ended symlinking konqueror to xandrosfilemanager

2008-01-08 08:30

Dear Lazyweb: What should my company's site be like?

The day is arriving when Net Managers SRL will emerge from its cocoon of bureaucracy.

Net Managers is a company. Of which I own a piece. And it will have a website, at ... and I have no idea what to put there.

So, what should it be like?

Here's some data:

  • It's formed by Linux/Unix geeks of a rather high level, IMHO
  • Our business is fixing your Linux/Unix problems, and explaining to you how you can really use Linux/Unix to do cool things (which means, corporate Linux consuklting and support)
  • We have a relaxed corporate culture. Every partner would get the joke about how Christmas and Thanksgiving are the same, since 25dec==31oct. We would prefer to actually show it. We are usually hired by IT grunts, not suits.
  • I have a blog and it's really not enterprisey , but it shows (I think) that I know about this. Should it be linked?
  • We have no physical offices. Legally we do, but really, we operate out of each partner's homes, on two different provinces. So, no pictures of our corporation's digs available ;-)
  • We are sort of a startup, but more like a formalization of a way of working that has been going on for a while.

Ideas, suggestions, are welcome.

Of course, questions about our services are welcome, too ;-)

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