30 April 2005

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger

Ars Technica - Reviews - Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
What would you expect from a review of a point release of a operating system? About the same as you would expect from the point release itself.
This one had much more then I exected. First of all the changes are reviewed on a very deep level starting from the kernel level changes and their implications to lack or appearance of a one pixel line in the interface.
I must say that this article showed me a lot of new and interesting ideas from the Tiger (and some from the old releases), what Spotlight is and isn't, how extended attributes work and what they do or could do, Quarz engine, Finder changes and a lot of new stuff.
Best of all this is not another "whoo whoo" review - mistakes are shown, old unsolved issues are brought up, potential further improvements are shown. But also the most important of 200+ improvements are reviewed.
I must say that this is a must-read for all developers starting from kernel and filesystem writers to interface designers.

26 April 2005

LWN: An amd64 Debian sarge release in the works

LWN: An amd64 Debian sarge release in the works
I really hope that this release will work out fine and that it will also demonstrate feasibility of independant arhitecture specific teams doing releases for SCC arhitectures of Debian of post-Sarge.
I don't see in the problem package list. Does that mean it works on amd64 now? Should investigate that, but I don't have an amd64 workstation available currently.

Swim, Robin, swim!

25 April 2005

separate 'Out of Debian' blog?

Actually there seams not too much of the world outside Debian for me, BUT today I discovered for myself a concept of biofilms. It came up with a chat with a beutiful girl that aims to study microbiology.
It appears like bacteria floating in water and bacteria attached to a surface are two compleatly different things. When bacteria joing a biofilm colony it activates different genes and starts producing 'glue' to attach to the carrier surface. Many bacteria can have their resistances increased by a factor of 1000, the colony can even have a rudimental work separation among the bacteria. Thus a primitive selforganising multicell organism is formed.
And somehow I again start to see the relation of this to the free software community ... oh, no - I am hopeless! :D

The Deamon, the Gnu and the Penguin

The Deamon, the Gnu and the Penguin (chapters 4 & 5)
It is really fun to read about the earlyest history of computer software. Especially it is fun to see how for most of the computerized history of the world, the software has been free in all sences of the word.
Evolution on networking and text editors is detailed in these chapters. The only names I would recognise right away are vi and Emacs. Guess what! They have common ancestors :) As they say - relatives fight harder then strangers.
It was quite a revelation to me how instrumental UUCP was for the creation of Net and particulary - UseNet.
As usual on Groklaw, the comments are quite revealling too: bang-path email addresses, phone tariffs, flame about too litle mentioning of RMS, and even some OT post about bananas :)
All in all - a fascinating read that will be assembled into a book. Now thats one more reserved space on the bookshelf.

24 April 2005


Another fine episode of Dr. Who brought to non-U.K. populace of the world by the digital wonders of BitTorrent has just gone trought my screen. I must say that I am in love with these series since I've seen the first episode of the new Doctor.
While the humor is a bit thin and plots are even thinner, the sincerity and quality of production give some kind of a warm feeling about it even if you're not British. It is fun to see celebrities staring in Dr. Who and very good shots of the modern London that the producers were able to do just because it was for Dr. Who. I doubth that they'd allow this amount of shooting in London for any other series.
And the best thing is ... we'll see a Dalek next week!

Masters paper

It is one year 'till I'll have to present my master thesis. Today I've been thinking that my current topic "AOP crosscut and UML" is not really my thing as it involves a lot of formal logic and mathematical manipulations with said logic. And I am not that math inclined anymore. Any deviation from current topic will also mean a need to change my professor and I kind of dislike that.
On the other hand I was thinking about alternate topics - about things that I'd like to research. It seams that currently I seam to become much more inclined to writing about open source and project management, but AOP has also slipped into my mind as an interesting concept with a possibility of use not only in programing, but also in project management or even in complex organizational structures. Therefore the possible topics include:
  1. Management of Open Source projects - a cookbook for an open source project manager
  2. Howto Open Source your software - guidelines for businesses willing to open source the software they developed - what, how, why, when to open source and how to manage both the software and the rest of the business after that
  3. Aspect Oriented organizational structures - for example, a larger corporation with many regional branches could have a separate IT branch that would directly control IT departments of all branches and then these IT departments would cooperate with the respective branch office as with a regular client.
I am also thinking about a professor that could take me on board. And I acctualy have one in mind. He is a top manager in one of the largest Latvian software companies and he has been quite nice to me before in a open source related maters. :)

22 April 2005

Planeting and revisoring

I just returned from the member meeting of Latvian IKT Association. The meeting was fun - I was poking in every possible legal issue that I could find in the voting process for the new board and even a young lawyer woman that was invited to the meeting to provide some legal support could not answer most of my questions and after law digging and discussion was forced to agree with me on almost every issue I brought up.

The ending was even more fun as they played back on me by electing me on the revisor board of the association. Doh! :)

P.S. First post on the planet.d.o, thanks to Mako for pointing to joining instructions and to Keybuk for setting this up.

Exim fuckup

I spoke too soon - Exim gave up on me failing to start with an obscure message:
Exim configuration error in line 301 of /var/lib/exim4/config.autogenerated: group mail was not found

The group 'mail' was still there and id and getent commands confirmed it. With help from I was able to figure out that /etc/groups had permissions of 0600 which made it unreadable for anyone except root. Doh!

Fixing bugs of TikiWiki

Just now I did some hacking of TikiWiki on the LAKA site. First I added a feature - now RSS feeds from news articles can be selected by topic. Then I put two rss aggregators on the main Wiki page of the site - one with all articles on 'LAKA' topic and the other one for all articles.
In the process I discovered a bug in Tiki RSS lib that did not allow two RSS feeds to be put on the same Wiki page. I traced the call to a 'include()' directive that should have been 'include_once()'. This also caused another bug to appear there - variable $rsslib had to be declared global in the same module.
Now I only have to create some way to make a feed for 'all topics except LAKA'. That will be harder.

PS. Restoring Mailman and Postgresql was a snap. Today seams to be a better day for me :)

21 April 2005


Today I ventured into the most annoying adventures a system administrator can face - reinstall. Fortunately this was a planned one, so I had just made all backups.
Problems started even before I did - all air circulation devices were broken in the company that collocates our server, so it was very hot there. I am not afraid of some heat unless it cooks my servers, so I went on with the reinstall.

While I was on the way to the location I asked the kind people there to make some kind of temporary banner page on one of their servers to say something like 'LAKA is being repaired now, come back in a few hours'. While they were doing that, it was needed to restart their corporate firewall as it stopped responding. And then ... the firewall didn't come up. Dong! Now imagine three men in a hot and tight server room struggling to untangle cables to get that firewall box out in the open to see what happened to it. Juk! After dissection the firewall claimed that it suddenly needed a video card. It's clear that the CMOS battery is dying on that thing. The way of least resistance was chosen (as people from all levels of the building were rushing in the server room every 5-7 seconds) and the Internet was returned to the people, and me as I was just going to finally start reinstalling our server.

As usually with 7+ year old hardware, the CD-ROM gave out in the worst possible case. Luckily there were some spares around. This servers case is something really interesting - it actually has a button to open the side of the case. Like a case eject :).

Installing Debian was uneventful showing the high level of this distro. In parallel I helped one guy to try to install SMB printer in Gentoo and soon I had to arrive to a conclusion that Gentoo sucks - nothing worked without a bit of tinkering. Even after installing ppds for the printer I had to unzip and install them manually. Juck!

Reinstalling needed programms was fast and seamless. The biggest problem was restoring the data. Unfortunately I made a full backup of the whole disk an that was a big problem. I mean 800 Mb is big if your downlink is less then 50 KB/sec :(. I spend a hour cutting out all the stuff I needed to revive the web and shell users. That was 150 Mb. Not wanting to waste my time waiting I wanted to put it on the download and head home to finish the thing remotely, but there was another problem lurking in the firery shadows - the firewall didn't want to give me back my IP.

I left hosters deal with that problem. When I left they were telephoning the authors of the firewall. Half an hour after I got home, the server was back online and I could start copying the reduced backup. Restoring Web and mysql services was a snap even considering migration to Apache 2 and MySQL 4 in the process. It just worked :)

After that I realized that I had screwed the user ids by copying old /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow over the new ones. Doh! I was save by some mysterious force that made backups right after the installation. I spend 20 minutes inching back into control of the system (I lost root and ssh would scream in panic because /etc/passwd had 0600 mode :P) and another 15 to carefully carry old users over to the new system.

Then I recovered a lost MySQL root password by looking at backup of my .mysql_history file. Doh!

Now I'll need most of the rest of the backup to get mail and postgresql back up. More waiting :(

Edit: Now this is getting ridiculous - the server that has the backup just shut down on his own. Ridiculous!

Testing Gnome based blogging

Today I tried out a few Gnome based blogging programms. Unfortunately I am still wrinting this in the web interface of the Why?

1. Gnome-Blog: a nice panel applet, one click blogging, looks perfect, but show an obscure error when trying to connect to :( Bug reported, lets go on.

2. BloGTK: standalone programm, too many buttons for anything, no autologin, asks to enter 'url to the system' giving an obscure example with xmlrpc in it. could not figure out the correct url, gave up, reported a bug :P

3. theres is not 3 !!! only two gnome based blogger supporting tools exist and both were unable to work for me.

sometimes life just sucks :)

Introduction to Web Services for Remote Portlets

Introduction to Web Services for Remote Portlets

Untill now Service Oriented Arhitecture, UDDI or WSDL have been only buzzwords to me.

Imagine a web portal - this blog, for example. There small modules on the right showing few last blog items, favorite links and other stuff. These can be called 'portlets' (portal applets). If wanted to add there something like a weather report, where you could enter you ZIP code and get a weather report for your area, I would have to do two things:
  • Find a place to gather the weather data from

  • Write bunch of scripts to take data from that place and integrate it into my blog and also a much larger bunch of code to provide you an input form to enter your ZIP code and for my website to preserve that value

To solve the first problem there is the UDDI - a registry of premade portlets. To solve the second problem there is WSRP - an interface for integrating a remote applet into a web page (a portal) in a standart way. This would mean that I would only need to write one tag in my page and the web server (or, usually, the application contaner, like JBoss) will do the rest of conversion and intergation work.
Those corporate programmers are getting lazy by the day :D

LWN: Weekly Edition for April 21, 2005

LWN: Weekly Edition for April 21, 2005

Note: This page is currently only available to LWN subscribers (*hint*, *hint*)

This issue of LWN has a great insight into Bdale Garbee's thoughts about Branden and the future of Debian. I am a bit more optimistic then Bdale on this. I think that there is a definite need for a single project leader for Debian. This practise has been proven right by many open source projects (both successful ones with leader and unsuccessful ones with such). A leader provides focus and the trouble spot to prod the inactive parts of the project. Also public representation is a critical part of a leaders duty.
I see Project Scud as a great proding for the stallemate in the top leadership structure of Debian.

Anyway, I hope we will discuss it more troughtly at Debconf5.

Another good article is an introduction to kprobes - great stuff I must say. Now I really better understand how to debug the kernel if I'll ever need to.

Article about Progeny's Componentized Linux makes me think how I could use that for my side-work. More about that later. Creating a custom distribution from premade 'components' using a tool called 'component compiler' within 20-30 minutes. I've been planning to create such framework at my previose workplace (LinTech). Great minds think alike :) | Interview: Branden Robinson, new Debian Project Leader | Interview: Branden Robinson, new Debian Project Leader

I, for one, welcome our Overfiend overlord. :D

P.S. I acctually voted for him as my first choice in the vote, mostly because I like his ability to break rules, when they start becoming plainly stupid, and to express his opinion, regardless of the consequences or lack thereof. :)

20 April 2005

Software patents

I have been involved in the discussions about software patents in Europe since the beginning. Today I feel that I need to summarize my idea about them.

The IT industry is about the author, about author controlling, selling (or sharing) his work. To insure that the author is in control, the copyright is used. Software patents override copyright. They take the power from the authors and put it in the hands of lawyers. And we - authors - do NOT like that!

Do you trully know what is a system administrator?

5nizza & Cosmos

My Azureus just gave me something else to blog about: two wonderful new musical groups that I started to like recently - 5nizza and Cosmos.
Cosmos is a latvian project - five guys singing good old songs without music creating the melody by intermixing their voices. Imagine five beautiful voices singing together everyone of them having a different rythm and pitch, but all combining together perfectly.
5nizza is a similar russian project, but there are only two people in the group and they do use music for the backing. 5nizza also writes all of their songs which is a nessesity as both singers sing almost at the same time, one frequently continues a word that the other one has begun. The text is also nicely composed to have multiple meanings depending on where you divide the words or phrases. An example of such style you could see in a Ramshtein song - "Du hast mich (You hate me) .... Du hast mich gefragt (You asked me)"

Note to self: I really hate German spelling :P

Start with a killer

To start the blog not with an obligatory 'Let's start this' post, but with something worth reading, I want to present the mighty nildience (null audience) the best Linux audio playing app: Amarok.
  1. Collection of your music based on the top directory - i.e. you just say 'my music is in /home/aigarius/mp3' and it rebrowses that dir each time it starts to find new music.
  2. Automatic rating based on play/skip ratio - just listen to what you like and skip songs you don't like and soon Amarok will be able to tell the difference.
  3. Get lyrics in 1 or 2 clicks - I love this feature.
  4. Control the player regardless of your current app - shortcuts with 'Windows' key work everywhere.
  5. Very nice playlist management within your music collection.
  6. Least played songs - either to try something long forgotten or to free your hard drive.
These are the features I like the best about Amarok. Please comment on what you like to find in your audio player.