Friday, July 28, 2006

Article Roundup

In honor of Sysadmin Appreciation Day (July 28th), the classic song and some humor.

Very useful site with backported Debian installer images. They mainly contain updated kernels, meaning they support lots of newer hardware, including Dell's latest power-edge servers. gives us an analysis of security patch times for various Linux distros. The fastest patchers? Ubuntu, Fedora and RHEL, with Debian a close fourth.

Yet another high-profile switch from Mac to Ubuntu Linux. This is interesting:

It has been my experience that the Mac "community" (ie, the most vocal and active of the Macintosh enthusiast and power users) tend to be incredibly negative and expect much more than they deserve.

Stifflog interviews some well-known programmers.

What the World-Wide-Web looked like in 1996, when the Internet Archive started archiving web pages. I'd forgotten how bad some of these sites looked.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Article Roundup

The US is unprepared for a major attack on the Internet infrastructure.

A good tutorial on Securing Apache with mod_security.

Tim O'Reilly comments on recent high-profile switches from Mac to Ubuntu.

Captchas are slowly but surely falling prey to computers.

The shock of using IE when you are used to Firefox.

Randsinrepose brings us A Nerd in a Cave. Interesting commentary on Geek work habits. Those of us who are knowledge workers can relate to this:

Once I've successfully traversed my morning routine and have entered The Zone, I am OFF LIMITS. I mean it. Intruding into The Cave and disrupting The Zone is no different than standing up in the middle of the first ever showing of The Empire Strikes Back, jumping up and down, and yelling, "DARTH VADER IS LUKE'S FATHER! DARTH VADER IS LUKE'S FATHER!" Not only are you ruining the mood, you're killing a major creative work.

Quality Online Resources for Perl Beginners

Perl beginners might be tempted by online books like this, simply because they are readily available. In this case, I would not recommend this book even after just skimming the online chapters. One of the biggest things that jumped out at me was the chapter on CGI form processing - using hand-rolled variable processing and no taint-checking are big no-no's. What explained this was the book's copyright - 1996 - a lot has happened in Perl in the past ten years, including, and many fine templating systems.

A much better and more recent (2000) online Perl book is Beginning Perl. For simple CGI, Ovid's Perl CGI course is excellent. Beginners to Perl should also check out and the tutorials, in particular the Getting Started With Perl Section.

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Adventures in Linux-Laptop-Land

What is it about Dell and their laptops that they have to change the hardware every few months, even among the same model lines? I used to have a Dell Inspiron 600m, which worked quite well under Debian Sarge, with a decent X screen resolution (1400x1050), working sound, Ethernet and wireless, and working PCMCIA.

I recently got a new laptop, and got the next model up in the Inspiron line (630m), since the 600m was not made anymore. The 630m has proven to be *very* Linux and Free-Unix unfriendly. The video is in Intel 915GM card, with the LCD screen only able to do 1280x800 (what a strange resolution, very wide but narrow). Anyway, pretty much every distro I've tried on it needs the 915resolution hack to work at anything but 1024x768. Then there is the sound card, an Intel ICH6 - needing the latest Alsa drivers to get working headset muting and mic (meaning compile from source). The wireless is a Broadcom bcm4318 (re-branded as an Intel so you can't tell ahead of time), which doesn't work unless you use ndiswrapper. And there is no more PCMCIA - this thing has an ExpressCard slot, which completely pissed me off since it turned my collection of useful PCMCIA cards into junk. The SATA hard drive is not supported by the 2.6.8 kernel in Debian Sarge, meaning 2.4 (oddly enough, the SATA drive *is* supported by the 2.4 kernel installed by default in Sarge) or something like Ubuntu or Red Hat. ACPI suspend worked under Breezy, but hibernate has never worked properly on this thing (perhaps I didn't try hard enough).

I originally had Ubuntu Breezy installed on it, but never could get the sound card to work properly, a problem since I rely on a SIP phone for work. I upgraded to Dapper when it was released, still no-go on the sound card (even after installing the latest CVS Alsa drivers). Same for Debian Sarge and FreeBSD. I poked around, finding that others had some success with sound on this particular laptop under Fedora Core 5, using a particular Alsa version, so I installed it. Now sound works fully, including mic and headphone muting, but it is unusably choppy with Ekiga or any other Linux SIP phone. Grrr..

So I just settled on using Fedora Core 5 on my laptop for the past month or so, sick of all the fiddling, and have been working off my cell phone when I travel. In my office I just have an old PC running Debian that runs Ekiga just fine, but this doesn't travel and defeats the biggest advantage of using an IP phone - being able to transplant your office anywhere. Fedora has its own warts (especially for someone so used to Debian for many years), but I'll save that for another post.

So, again, what is it with the current laptop market, Dell in particular? Full of proprietary hardware that changes every few months (if I had known I was getting a Broadcom wireless chipset, I never would have bought it). I keep hoping that the laptop market will settle on some sort of standard group of hardware components with open specs, but this will probably never happen.

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