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LinuxFest Northwest 2012: Day 0

The reason BillingsLUG members Andrew and Warren were visiting the BozemanLUG meeting was because they are going to the LinuxFest Northwest 2012 show in Bellingham, Washington along with BozemanLUG member Gary Bummer and myself. Yeah, four people for the trip this year! Last year I was all by myself.

On the road again

Warren was kind enough to drive again this year. He is a "professional" and "ninja" driver. Andrew sat next to him in the front and Gary and I sat in the back. Gary and I watched two Big Bang Theory videos on my laptop along with the HBO movie Game Change. We also listened to the most recent episode of the Sunday Morning Linux review audiocast.

Visiting Psymin and Agethol

I don't know if I spelled Agethol correctly so forgive me if not. Speaking of spell checking, Firefox 12 doesn't seem to be doing while-you-type spell checking for me so I'm sure this post will be rife with typos. :(

One of the traditions that we do on the trip to LFNW if at all possible is to visit with Seth McClain and Frank in Missoula. We meet at Seth's favorite eatery, "The Shack". Seth yet again bought everyone a bruchy meal. I had oatmeal with fruit and it was delecious. Even with the long trip we stayed and talked geek talk for about an hour and a half. It was awesome.

It was also Seth's birthday. Happy birthday Seth! You are getting old like me dude. :) Thanks for the food and sorry we didn't bring the dirt and rocks from Manhattan that you wanted as posted on Craig's List (inside joke).

Arriving in Bellingham

When driving from Montana to the Northwest coastal region, you gain an hour. We arrived in Bellingham around 7PM. We stopped at our favorite hole-in-the-wall oriental food place and all had "Spicy Chicken". While I've been trying to cut back on my animal product intake this year, I couldn't resist. I'm a wimp when it comes to spicy stuff but this wasn't too hot and was very tasty... and on Fridays you get a can of soda with each meal FREE! :)

With our full bellies we went over to the Hampton Inn and checked in. Gary and I went over to the Fox Hall (part of Hampton Inn) for the last 30 minutes of a Job Fair event that was held as part of LFNW. We weren't looking for jobs or anything and were mainly fighting bordom... but they had some fruit kabobs and some finger veggies so I snacked a little bit and didn't even feel guilty about it.

Looking forward to day 1

There are many fine presentations scheduled. The Calligra Krita folks (as mentioned in BozemanLUG April 2012 Meeting Report) really wanted there to be a Krita presentation at LFNW and I believe one guy really familiar with Blender (and giving a presenation on it as well?) volunteered to show Krita off even though he is relatively new to it. The Krita folks mailed him a copy of the promotional training video DVD with physical comicbook included to be donated as a prize at the LFNW World Famous Raffle. I'm going to buy 20 raffle tickets in hopes of winning that and I'll definitely be attending (and hopefully video recording) the Krita presentation... along with all of the other presentations I attend... with the permissions of the presenters of course.

Here are the presentations I hope to attend:

  • An Intro to CrunchBang
  • Software Patents: What You Can Do
  • Linux Logical Volume Manager Advanced Topics
  • Help us get open source used in local schools
  • ownCloud - Your Cloud, Your Data, Your Way!
  • The LFNW World Famous Raffle
  • Krita - Digital graphics for real artists
  • XenClient: Client-side virtualization
  • Meet Fedora: The Not-So-Miraculous story of a successful community
  • Teaching Linux and Linux System Administration as Distance Education Classes

Isn't that list awesome? There are quite a few other (overlapping) presentations I wish I could attend and it was hard to settle on those. I hope to blog day 1 and day 2... although there might be some lag... and I'll be posting the videos ASAP after the event to archive.org in webm format.


BozemanLUG: April Meeting Report

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Fedora Logo?Fedora Logo?The April meeting went pretty well. Attendance was better because Andrew N. and Warren Sanders were visiting from the BillingsLUG. Besides me, Andrew and Warren were regulars David Eder and Gary Bummer. A new guy showed up from Belgrade named Jethro. Unfortunately I didn't catch Jethro's last name nor get a picture of him but he participated quite a bit so I'm hoping he will make it to some future meetings. He has EMT training and is currently working on a motorcycle with a blown up engine.

GIMP

I talked about and showed GIMP 2.8 RC1 (as found in the Fedora 17 pre-release). I tried my best to highlight a few of the new features including of course the new Single Window mode. I briefly talked about the tentative roadmap GIMP has for the next two or three releases and mentioned the recent code sprint done by two GIMP developers that got ~ 90% of the work the project wanted to get accomplished for the next two releases (that usually take years) done in three weeks. GIMP is really a great program for editing and refining pre-existing images and I have been using it for more than 10 years... but it is obvious that GIMP still needs a number of long-time lingering feature deficiencies resolved before advanced users will be satisfied with it. They look well on the way to getting their in the next release or two.

Krita

Then I showed Calligra Krita 2.4 (again as found in Fedora 17 pre-release). I had a USB touch tablet input device (is that what you call them?) hooked up and showed off some of Krita's fancy paint brush stuff. I'm really new to Krita so I don't know what I'm doing yet... but it is so obvious how good of a program it is and I want to learn more. Just by doing some goofing around with the touch tablet it was clear that the quality of what you can create with Krita closely approximates what you can do with real paper, pencils, paints, etc. If I were had more artistic talents I think I'd be spending hours and hours with Krita just experimenting.

For about 10 years of my youth I collected comicbooks (Marvel, DC, and many independents like Cerebus) and one of Krita's use cases is in comicbook creation. Krita really excells in creating new artwork as opposed to working with pre-existing images and to help raise funds for future development one of the Krita developers has put together a series of 1080p webm videos on data DVD that show the creation of a color comicbook from start to finish. I hope to purchase that DVD (all content under a Creative Commons license) in the near future. I don't know if I'll actually get into creating a comicbook of my own but I can dream, can't I?

Fedora Artwork?

Speaking of art, some fine folks at the Fedora Project answered my plea for old Fedora branded install media and shipped me 19 lbs of old CDs/DVDs. Why would I want those? I like to decorate the walls at work (Computer Science Department at Montana State University Bozeman) with discs. With the help of everyone at the meeting, we used the optical media to create a new "artwork" for a previously blank and boring strech of wall in the main undergraduate computer lab (EPS 254). We did it very quickly and it still needs a little fine tuning, but the end result doesn't look too bad. We got a quick picture (thanks Andrew) but I'll probably post some better pictures when I get it fine tuned. I think the letter a at the end needs to be skooted to the left a little. Darn kerning.

Thanks for the help guys and hope to see some of you next month!

No Machine's NX 4 Preview 6

I downloaded the No Machine's NX 4 Preview 6 packages. They have server builds for Linux, Windows, and Mac. So far, I've only tried the Linux version but I hope to try the others soon.

So, what do I think? It is *AMAZING*. No really. I installed it on my work desktop and connected to it from my laptop at home over wireless. I adjusted the display quality down a bit because the combination of the bandwidth at work and the latency of my DSL connection at home are pretty bad. By the way, I connected to my pre-existing X11 desktop session and was able to share it. While the connection to my work desktop was rather grainy, it was VERY USABLE. I was able to watch video... and I'm even writing this blog post while I'm listening to a video... all running on the remote machine.

To really test it out, I opened up the spicec client on my remote work desktop and connected to a remote KVM virtual machine via the SPICE protocol and everything worked including sound with good A/V sync. What is amazing about this is that I've never been able to connect to a work machine via SPICE from home but NX allowed me to and it worked well even though I was running a remote display inside of a remote display.

All I can say is that this is the best remote session experience I've ever had with any protocol. This NX 4 Preview 6 works better and is more dynamically configurable than anything I've ever seen. If I'm able to stream a Windows desktop and a Mac Desktop with the same quality, in my opinion, NX is the protocol of the future... hands down.

Please forgive me for being so positive and optimistic... yeah, I've only been using it for about 30 minutes now... but wow... really... wow.

BTW, they have totally redone the user interface of the NXplayer application and it is much easier to use. Give it try for yourself. To clarify, this is definitely a preview release and there are some bugs, but what I've seen thus far has greatly impressed me.


Remote Display Protocols in Abundance

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Over the years I've used a number remote display products.

VNC

The first one I recall using was Virtual Network Computing aka VNC in 1998. VNC is free software and has been incorporated, forked and enhanced by a number of companies and projects. While VNC works rather well over a medium to high speed LAN, it can be a bit slow over slower connections. That is because VNC isn't a completely vector-based protocol and still uses mostly bitmaps... or at least that is my understanding. One good thing about VNC though is that both the client and the server are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux... and a few other things as well.

Let's examine a few alternatives.


Tales of Enterprise Linux Major Version Upgrading

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In the last post I mentioned that I migrated from CentOS 4.9 to Scientific 6.1... and that certain aspects of this Drupal 4.7.x site were broken because of an incompatibility with PHP 5.3.x.

Downgrading a distro

Well, I decided to move from Scientific Linux 6.1 to Scientific Linux 5.7. EL5 offers both PHP 5.1.x and PHP 5.3.x and Red Hat announced a few weeks ago that they are extending the support lifecycle of both RHEL5 and RHEL6 from 7 years to 10 years. Migrating back to EL5 fixes the issues (knock on wood) that I was having with Drupal... but yet I can easily move to PHP 5.3.x at some point in the future if I so desire.

Doing EL major version upgrades

Two friends of mine happened to have CentOS 4.9 OpenVZ containers as well. They also run a number of services I'm less familiar with and weren't really versed enough with Linux to migrate their data like I did. In an effort to help them out, I looked into how to upgrade from EL4 to EL5. That really IS NOT supported or recommended but I thought I'd give it a try and see how it went. If it failed, I'd roll back to the original system. If it succeeded I'd keep it. After much work I *THINK* I figured it out. At least it worked for me in the particular situation I was dealing with. I started off with a page on the CentOS wiki about Upgrading from 4.4 to 5. I did not do a boot media based upgrade (I'm working with containers) so I did it strictly with rpm and yum.

I followed the instructions but they were written some time ago and were a bit outdated. So the first container I did took the longest because I was finding my way. Basically this happens in a few steps.

  1. Install the EL5 repos
  2. Manually download the core packages recommended and install them.
  3. Hopefully when you are done rpm is still working. If yum is broken, manually install a few more packages to make it work.
  4. With a working yum, upgrade everything else
  5. Turn off any new services that happen to be on by default that you don't want
  6. Find any stray packages left over from the previous release
  7. Fix your service configs by comparing your original service configs with the new ones

Read on to find out more of the nitty gritty details.


Site Upgrade - About time

Rackable NM46X Dual Quadcore AMDRackable NM46X Dual Quadcore AMDWarren Sanders put together a newer server to host this domain on. The system we were using was put together about 5 years ago. When we originally set it up, it was running CentOS 4.0. It was upgraded with each CentOS update and worked its way all the way up to CentOS 4.9. Anyone using RHEL 4.x or a clone can tell you that it is rather old in the tooth. For example it uses PHP 4.x.

A few weeks ago, I migrated all of our OpenVZ containers to the new system. The host node is running Scientific Linux 6.x. The containers continued to run CentOS 4.x Today I decided to make a new container and migrate all of the accounts and data to the new system. I basically went from CentOS 4.9 i386 to Scientific Linux 6.1 x86_64. The migration went pretty smoothly. My wife has a couple of Drupal 6-based sites and they just worked. I have a few Drupal 4.7.x based sites (which includes this one) and there were some issues. The main problem is that the Drupal 4 series is no longer supported / updated... and there are a number of known issues with Drupal 4.7.x and PHP 5.3. Going from PHP 4.x to 5.3.x is indeed a big jump. I also tried using the binary files for MySQL but ran into problems and ended up using mysqldump to export everything to an .sql file and then importing it. I don't know if the issues I ran into were caused by the big jump in MySQL versions or simply because I switched from 32-bit to 64-bit.

Any any event, with my testing and a little bit of php source code editing, this site is back in operation. It took me a couple of hours and there are still a few issues. What issues are those? Well, there will be no new account registrations and existing users can't edit their account information. Other than that, everything seems to work well enough.

I eventually plan on creating a new, Drupal 7-based site. I think trying to upgrade from the existing version through 5, then 6 and finally to 7... would be very problematic... unless there is someone out there who has done it. Problems with upgrading are what have held this site back at Drupal 4. Also being on CentOS 4.9, it was impossible to use Drupal 7 because it requires PHP 5.3.x at a minimum. I'm not really sure how I'm going to go about it... run both the old site and the new site... and manually copy and paste content between them? Or maybe I'll just run the old site in read-only type mode... and just use the new site for new content only. We'll see how it goes. I don't currently have a timeframe for when I'll set up the new site... so my guess is that this site will limp along for a while yet. Just wanted to let everyone know about the big change made today.

Screencast: Virtualization Basic Introduction

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I was asked to put together a presentation on Virtualization... and wasn't quite sure what the audience would want... so I put together a basic introduction that I can easily improvise on as the audience asks questions.

I designed the slides using Prezi which is a freemium web-based presentation site. It has lots of motion so watch out... but I did keep it rather simple - no pictures nor embedded videos. :)

virtualization-prezi.webm (12.7 MB)

Videos: Linux.conf.au 2012

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Bruce Perens was one of the keynote speakers at the 2012 Linux.conf.au conference held in Ballarat, Australia January 16-20, 2012. I really enjoyed his presentation so I'm sharing it below. The linux.conf.au folks have posted videos for all of their presentations to their YouTube channel. I downloaded all of them and posted them to an archive.org LCA2012 page. They are also available in ogg format.

LCA2012-Keynote-Bruce_Perens.webm (168.1 MB)

Video: OLPC Tablet reports from CES

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OLPC News: The OLPC Tablet at CES?

OLPC Tablet A1 board prototypeOLPC Tablet A1 board prototype

It seems that the upcoming OLPC XO 3 Tablet is getting some buzz right before its debut next week at CES. It is said to be an 8" tablet that may come in a few models. Information about it is currently very sketchy but supposedly some will be revealed next week. I am NOT posting any of the early concept pictures because they are dated and I'm fairly sure the real thing looks quite different... since it is designed to be very rugged for children. Here are some external links to get you in the mood:

COMPUTERWORLD - OLPC's XO-3 tablet to debut at CES

ELECTRONISTA - OLPC XO 3.0 tablet to show at CES with Android, Sugar

ENGADGET - OLPC outs XO 3.0 tablet at last, will make its debut at CES

GIZMODO - The $100 OLPC Tablet Is Really Real and Debuting at CES

OLPC News - What Will OLPC Show at CES 2012 Next Week?

OFFICIAL OLPC WIKI - XO-3 Tablet Alpha test model

There is a lot of repeating of the same speculation (echo chamber) and even some misinformation... but at least there appears to be some interest. For one thing the XO 1.75 is NOT out yet (March 2012?). They are keeping the Pixel Qi screen layer that gives it an eInk display mode just like in all previous OLPCs... but probably not in the $100 model. I think both Amazon and Barnes & Noble really missed the boat when they DID NOT but the Pixel Qi eInk layer in the displays of their Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet products. An eInk display mode in a color display from book sellers would have been a no-brainer. Who would of thought the OLPC project would have remained innovative with a 5 year old feature they pioneered?

I have to wonder if the OLPC folks have finalized the design and all of the models they plan to offer and what features they will have. I doubt it because the alpha board appears to have arrived about a month ago and they said they have more shrinking to do and a few more features to add... although it is currently half the size of the XO 1.75 board. The $100 model will almost certainly sacrifice some features because they can not sell them at a loss and make up the difference with "content sales" like the commercial vendors.

Is the $100 entry-level price hard to believe? Not really. The upcoming $25 / $35 Raspberry Pi devices (not shipping yet but probably within a month) have shown that modern SoC designs can actually be inexpensive. The OLPC XO-3 Tablet will have more hardware features than the Raspbery Pi including the not-cheap display, camera, wifi and battery (although no wired network port).

While the low price points are definitely achievements, there are three factors that make such pricing possible:

  1. Both OLPC and Raspberry Pi are non-profits
  2. Both are using completely free (speech and beer) software
  3. Both are aimed at the education market

One big difference though is that the OLPC project remains focused on only selling in bulk directly to governments and school systems whereas the Raspberry Pi is targeting single-unit direct-sales to the public.

Update: I found some images of the real external design. It is supposedly going to be shown early (Sunday night). The images look real and to the best of my knowledge, they are... and some ports are visible. Note that the thickness is what you'd expect in a rugged device... and is very reminiscent of the display-half of the current OLPC models. Since the existing OLPC models ALREADY had all of the guts behind the display (with the exception of the battery), this is definitely what I was expecting... but the lids are a surprising twist, eh?

OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet with coverOLPC XO 3.0 Tablet with cover

Two OLPC tablets, one with solar panel charging lid(?) and other with flexibleTwo OLPC tablets, one with solar panel charging lid(?) and other with flexible

By the way, a package showed up in my mailbox yesterday... a long lost OLPC XO 1.5. I just updated it to the latest stable software release and will be revisiting it since I haven't gotten much time with a 1.5. It will be available in the OPLC Lending Library RSN.

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