Nothing in particular…

Updates and Backups

Evidently the best backup concept is worth jack if you do not implement it. I learned that the hard way yesterday. I “updated” my NSLU2 (“oberon”) from Debian Etch to Lenny which, due to the ARM ABI change required reinstalling.

For backing up my machines I mainly use faubackup wrapped in a script which does things as saving the dpkg package state or dumping my PostgreSQL/OpenLDAP databases. This works and has proven invaluable numerous times.

On the 4th of September 2008 I started tracking my weight loss. I pondered using’s Calc, but I deeply dislike spreadsheet programs. So I figured that my NSLU2 is sturdy enough to bear this load, too, and installed PostgreSQL 8.1 (which is in Etch) on it. Since then I quite regularly checked the data in.

Now yesterday I “upgraded” to Lenny. Not without precaution, of course:

  • I dd’ed all three USB sticks into a respective image file, even the one containing only a swap partition.
  • I specifically ran my faubackup script.
  • I deleted unneccesary things from /
  • I moved necessary things (/etc, /root, /var) out of the way

The “upgrade” worked fine. Everything was up and running roughly six hours later (bearing in mind, that an NSLU2 has 32 MiB RAM and a 266 Mhz CPU). Everything? No! PostgreSQL wasn’t. Turns out I simply forgot to include my “dump PostgreSQL” stanza to my NSLU2 backup script! And, seeing that the universe hates me, PostgreSQL X.Y database files are not compatible with PostgreSQL X.Z database files. Bummer.

So I had three options to obtain a database dump: Backing up my NSLU2 again and resetting it to its Etch state, relying on emulation or recompiling the Etch PostgreSQL 8.1 packages for Lenny. I decided to go for emulation, just for the fun of it and because everything was working so far. Apart from that recompiling would probably lasted until today and I would not even be sure if the database files could be read correctly (again:  ABI change!).

All in all it took another six hours just to retrieve those data sets. QEmu is dog slow emulating a different CPU architecture (as suspected) and was even slower than my NSLU2. But luckily I found some prepared Etch ARM images. So I only needed to install PostgreSQL 8.1 in them and drop the database files in the right location, and voilà: dumping done, data retrieved, everyone lucky :) .


MPD, the Music Player Daemon, is a nice piece of software for playing, you guessed it, music! Now that my main laptop seems to be dying it appears a better alternative than some years ago. Also, due to the ABI change, playing Ogg Vorbis files does not simply kill the machine anymore, but just crackles a little bit. Not a problem, as I cannot access my music collection right now and mostly listen to the liveIreland stream.

Other things of interest

Nothing important to report, really:

  • I am feeling a little bit better now than I did the last few days.
  • Tomorrow I will try updating my WLAN router to the newest OpenWRT RC.
  • I nearly killed my small laptop by spilling water on it (stupid reality).
  • I got me some movies from a leftover christmas gift voucher and promptly watched one with Alex today.

I am being told…

…that I do not write stuff in my blog. I am being constantly told this. Well, it is of course true, if you assume a certain value for “true”. So this blog entry just serves to disprove that assumption ;) .

Ireland holiday

From the 22nd of September to the 4th of October Kathrin and me were on a wonderful holiday to Ireland. The first two days we stayed in a B&B in Galway, the last day we were in a hotel in Dublin. In between we stayed in a cottage near Brandon Point on Dingle (far, far away from anything which I might call “civilisation”).

I just have to say, Ireland is absolutely stunning! I took a whopping 1,208 fotos on my shiny new camera (which I now have to sort somehow). Even the view of Dingle Bay from the living room of the cottage every morning and evening was worth the whole journey… but of course we did not stop there and saw a lot of nice things on the Dingle peninsula.

All in all I can really recommend Ireland to anyone who likes it a little more quiet and enjoys a beautiful scenery.

Amarok 2 and Kontact

Amarok 2

The Amarok 2 beta is available in Debian unstable as of yesterday (I think). Looks very promising, indeed. Nowhere near finished, but cool and quite functional nonetheless.


I just started the KDE4 version of Kontact the first time and instantly placed it on one of my extra laptop buttons, replacing Liferea.


KDE4 shapes up to be excellent. Though I will probably be staying with Window Maker for a long time (which is a pity, because I never really get to use Martin’s work) I find myself using more and more of the KDE4 applications.

mcabber and OTR

Today I wanted to try out off-the-record messaging (OTR) using mcabber. I did not really find any documentation or web sites saying anything else than “It works!” so I decided to write this Nano How-To for other people having the same problem.

Get a usable mcabber version

mcabber started supporting OTR from version 0.9.4 onwards. E.g. the version in Debian “Etch” 4.0 is way too old (0.8.3), so you have to make do somehow different (back-port, source compile, magic, etc.).

I created a .deb of mcabber 0.9.7 using the current testing version as a template (for ARM only, so no downloads). To do this I had to recompile the libotr2 package, too, as 3.0 apparently is too old.

Set up mcabber for OTR

mcabber stores its configuration in ~/.mcabber, and its OTR keys in ~/.mcabber/otr, so mkdir ~/.mcabber/otr.

You also have to append/uncomment set otr = 1 in ~/.mcabber/mcabberrc. AFAIK this has to be done in the configuration file and a running mcabber has to be restarted for key generation.

Key generation takes time (roughly seven minutes on my NSLU2, mere fractions of seconds on your shiny new 256-core CPU) and will be started as soon as you restart mcabber. The key will be deposited in ~/.mcabber/otr/<JID>.key


Now set up your buddies for OTR

Of course you have to talk them into using a OTR capable client but that is beyond the scope of this document ;) . What I mean is that you have to enable OTR for your buddies in mcabber by issuing /otrpolicy <JID> opportunistic or /otrpolicy <JID> always. The value of <JID> can be an actual JID (e.g. foo@bar.baz or . which is the currently selected buddy. You can (and should) save this in your ~/.mcabber/mcabberrc like this:

 otrpolicy <JID> opportunistic 

(Or always instead of opportunistic, of course.)

If you now talk to your buddy a OTR channel will be established (the first thing you say will be unencrypted so you probably want to say something inconspicuous like “Hi!”, and not directly “Care to overthrow the government of $COUNTRY?”). mcabber will print these messages:

 *** OTR: new fingerprint: NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN *** OTR: channel established 

where NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN is the fingerprint of your counterpart. Verify this via a secure channel (which of course is not the OTR channel as long as the fingerprint is not verified… use a signed and trusted email for that).

If you have verified your counterpart’s key issue /otr fingerprint <JID> "NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN NNNNNNNN" (spaces are important!) to trust the key. This will be saved in ~/.mcabber/otr/<YourJID>.fpr automatically so no need to change your ~/.mcabber/mcabberrc for this.

Now you and OTR should be all set (up). Have fun and don’t overthrow too many poor governments! And Kathrin, thanks for your help :) .

Night of the Living Dead

Kathrin, with whom I will visit Ireland Real Soon Now™ (i.e. late September), asked me if I am letting this blog die. No, I don’t. I dutifully pay my Fellowship fees, as I believe I am supporting a greater and better cause through it. I just never was this big blogger, as I am a very private person. Also I kind of feel inadequate using my Fellowship blog for personal stuff, whereass ‘all’ the other Fellows blog about important stuff. But as I do not intend to create another blog, you just have to accept that. Which is nice for ‘suck it!’ ;)

To at least say something about free software, I may add how lucky the people are which never once in their lifes touch any Microsoft Windows platform whatsoever. A little example: For my company I am coordinating the introduction in Germany of a company-wide VPN solution. This solution is a nice program (in the confines of proprietary software that is) and is generally hassle free and easy to use. But installing it on ‘patient zero’s’ laptop first took the better part of a week. Then one had to package it for our software deployment solution, which taught me the value of the .deb-Package format and apt &c. (as if I did not already knew that), even though I did not do the actual packaging.

The software (really an assembly of different components) came ‘packaged’ in a folder structure using a VB script ‘installer’… which works surprisingly well. My colleague decided to use this script instead of starting from scratch. Of course the script tried to do the right thing by uninstalling other VPN solutions. Now this is not a problem at all, as this new VPN solution is scheduled to replacy any existing solution at my company.

The only thing I have a problem with is the ‘why?’. Why in the name of the universe does one have to uninstall other VPN solutions? Oh, alright, it says in the accompanying documentation that this VPN solution is incompatible with other VPN solutions. Well then: why? Apart from making sure that the routing table is in order no one ever has to uninstall $VPN[0] just to be able to install $VPN[1] (or indeed $VPN[$i]) on any Unixy system I encountered. And why should one need to? Virtual interfaces are all perfectly compatible with one another, and if you do not connect to different networks with the same IP address range everything is just dandy. I just don’t get it…

To me this can only mean one thing: spread free software. Completely free systems. Free infrastructure. Stable, reliable, working, compatible systems. I cannot understand how otherwise sophisticated people accept the occasional blue screen (yes, this still happens) or computer that stopped responding and happily reboot (okay, in light of the reboot actually taking up to ten minutes on older machines this forced coffee break may actually appear a nice distraction). But I deeply loathe problems I cannot get to the bottom of and so will never accept this kind of computer ‘experience’, and will never shed a tear looking back to my Windows days.

And the title of this blog entry? Well, last time I blogged I was ‘not dead yet’, but you can consider me dead from now on (dead and zombified, shambling around the streets, slowly decomposing, looking for the living to devour, that is ;) ).

I am not dead yet…

…though sometimes i wish I were.

On a more fun note I visited a discussion about privacy last Friday and it was very interesting though JJ was disappointed by the visitor turnout (I suspected it would be even fewer).

Study and religion

Two things constituted yesterday for me:

  • The End — The last theoretical part of the last semester at the Berufsakademie. The last examination. The last lecture (in that order). Fittingly the last two both were “Linux für Fortgeschrittene” (“Advanced Linux”). But as Martin put it (thanks for the kudos btw!) there was not much new to be learned in the main study. After the official part Kathrin, Florian, Timm and I went home to Timm to watch a movie (Bill Murray and Geena Davis in “Quick Change” which I can recommend to everyone), play cards and generally have a good time.

  • A nice woman accosted me in the train after I gave a paper she was holding a hard look: “Folge dem Christus”(“Follow the Christ”). She offered me an invitation to a three day event. I politely declined and after being asked why I answered that I am a staunch atheist. She then went on to tell me how she thinks that the universe fits so well together that it must be created by someone and I said that I have no problem with everything being fundamentally meaningless and that I give meaning to my life myself, i.e. bettering myself and the whole of humanity. We discussed a little bit more, but after only two stations I had to get off the train, and to my surprise said something to the effect that I really like to continue the discussion (which I did) but that my station was coming up.

    Well, what do you know? There are other christians who want to persuade you than the “Partei der bibeltreuen Christen” (“Party of bible-adhering Christs”) or the man standing at times at Mannheim Paradeplatz or Bahnhof shouting that Christ will save you if you live your life according to his teachings. And apparently not all want to persuade you to live a life which picks certain parts of the christian bible (and ignores others completely… selling your daughters into slavery, anyone?) and interpret them according to their anyhow settled beliefs which is the worst kind of hypocrisy to me.

And even though I wrote a lot more about my “religious” encounter, concerning my study I still want to say: Booooyah!

Drei Jahre Berufsakademie Mannheim

Dinge die ich in drei Jahren an der Berufsakademie gelernt habe:

  • „Kein Raum frei“ heißt nicht, dass kein Raum mehr frei ist sondern „Ich als verantwortliche Sekretärin habe keine Kenntnis davon, dass noch einer von meinen fünf normalerweise vergebenen Räumen frei ist.“ Das ist wie in folgender Situation: Sie „Kannst du mir bitte mal die Butter aus dem Kühlschrank geben?“ Er „Es ist keine Butter da“, wobei er eigentlich nur meint „Ich kann keine Butter sehen“ und die Butter hinter der Marmelade steht. Männer sind halt so. Und BA-Sekretärinnen auch.
  • Es macht Spaß (und zwar tierisch) über vollkommen blödsinnige Sachen zu diskutieren, z.B. warum es schöner ist wenn es draußen grau ist und nicht die Sonne scheint oder warum Marty McFly in „Zurück in die Zukunft“ sich am Ende nur zehn Minuten Extrazeit gönnt obwohl er genau weiß, dass der DeLorean Anlassschwierigkeiten hat und er im Stadtzentrum und nicht auf dem Parkplatz der Twin Pine Mall/Lone Pine Mall rematerialisieren wird. Solide Unterhaltung über gar nichts, aber wirklich lustig.
  • Linux ist Windows überlegen. Nicht nur dass sie nicht in der selben Liga spielen, sie spielen nicht mal die selbe Sportart. Erster Windows-Go-Kart-Verein vs. Formel Eins Team Linux.
  • Debian ist Ubuntu überlegen. Okay, Ubuntu ist klickibunti, aber Debian ist allgemein… Auf meiner NSLU2 läuft das genau so wie auf meinem Laptop. Nimm das, Ubuntu
  • Debian ist DSL überlegen. So viel ist klar.
  • Nicht aufpassen ist okay, so lange man für die Klausuren lernt.
  • Die Motivationskurve sinkt gegen Ende der Studienzeit beständig, und hat am Anfang des sechsten Semesters schon Null erreicht.
  • Amerikanische Sitcoms sind wirklich klasse. Besonders hervorzuheben ist „Scrubs“, „My Name is Earl“, „Two and a half Men“ und „How I met your Mother“. Und ich hätte mich beinahe selbst von Scrubs ausgeschlossen weil die deutsche Synchro so überhaupt nicht lustig ist… :/
  • Wenn alle aus den höheren Jahrgängen sagen „Die Klausur bei <zensiert> wird einfach“ heißt das noch lange nicht, dass sie es auch ist.
  • Wenn die selben Leute sagen, dass „Die Klausur bei <wieder.zensiert> schwer wird“, dann wird sie das meist auch.
  • Der Burger King in Mannheim nimmt auch Gutscheine wo zwar klein aber klar erkenntlich drauf steht, dass sie nur für Darmstadt und Umgebung gelten. Danke Niedriglohnjobs für die anscheinend nur Merkbefreite qualifiziert sind.
  • ACSler sind viel cooler als TAIler, oder auch NullTAIler genannt (Applied Computer Science vs. Angewandte Informatik… das T in TAI steht für n00bs und ich weiß nicht warum… nur bei Sascha und Dennis steht das T für „Voll korrekt“ ;) ).
  • „Alle Vorlesungen auf Englisch“ heißt „30% der Vorlesungen auf Englisch, viele davon auf mittelmäßig bis schlechtem Englisch“. Ich habe Lang kein so schlechtes Englisch gehört… davor das letzte mal bei einer ehemaligen Kurskameradin die Fremdsprachensekretärin(!) werden wollte…
  • Meine Linuxkenntnisse sind weit über dem Durchschnitt. Keine Selbstbeweihräucherung, einfach Fakt.
  • Vorlesungen die freiwillig an einem Freitag und dem direkt darauffolgenden Samstag stattfinden und die einzigen an diesen Tagen sind, werden genau zwei von 24 möglichen Partizipanten haben. Ein zwölftel ist eigentlich gar nicht mal schlecht.
  • Zettelchen schreiben ist out, Instant Messaging ist in. Auch flüstern ist von gestern, d.h. IM selbst dann, wenn die Diskussionsteilnehmer nur eine halbe Armlänge trennt.
  • Jabber kann recht komplex sein.
  • Python ist optisch schön anzusehen, aber Doku ist nicht die Stärke der Sprache.
  • Port 443 ist das goldene Firewall-Loch.
  • Ich bin völlig lernresistent gegenüber Physik und konsequenterweise Elektrotechnik.
  • Es gibt gute Menschen an der BA. Hallo Tina, Kathrin, Ruth, Timm, Reuben, Florian, Martin, Stephan, Thomas, Fabian und Simon.
  • Alle dumm außer uns.
  • IBAler (International Business Administration) lernen „der Sand im Getriebe“ zu sein. Und darin sind sie richtig gut.
  • Nein, der Raum ist nicht „euer“ Raum.
  • Niemand mag die „Menschen“ von SAP, obwohl diese selbst so von sich überzeugt sind, dass sie Macs benutzen.
  • Selbst BWLer sehen teilweise (danke Simon) ihre Studienrichtung nicht als brauchbar an.
  • BWLer und richtige Studiengänge müssen räumlich getrennt werden um Blutvergießen zu vermeiden. Deswegen haben wir ein eigenes Gebäude und die BWLer auch. Am anderen Ende der Stadt.
  • Summer School (einwöchiger Aufenthalt in Bristol, UK) r0x0rt! Aber die BWLer wurden sicherheitshalber auch hier auf Abstand in Oxford gehalten. Anscheinend liegt eine als akzeptabel angesehene Ausfallquote nicht bei mehr als 0%.
  • London r0x0rt auch.
  • Britisches Essen ist richtig gut, aber was dort zum Frühstück gegessen wird ist hier ein vollwertiges Mittagessen. Die Käseauswahl im Tesco (≅Edeka) war vorzüglich. Nur das Brot ist eine Katastrophe.
  • Wenn Harrods in London ein Konsumtempel ist, dann ist das KDW in Berlin ein Konsumautobahnkreuz. Scheuklappen sind in den Food Halls zu empfehlen.
  • Drei Spanischdozentinnen in vier Semestern geht schon in Ordnung.
  • Ich kann Spanisch ohne Spanisch zu können.
  • Ein Semester mal 500€ Studiengebühren mal 1.400 Studenten macht 700.000€. Anscheinend nicht genug um Putzen zu bezahlen. Die Böden sind dreckig
  • Beamer gehen auch ohne Fernbedienungen, auf die Tische steigen ist erstens völlig hygienisch und zweitens sicherheitstechnisch völlig unbedenklich. Filter reinigen brauch auch niemand.
  • WLAN ist so teuer, dass man mehr als zwei APs kaum bezahlen kann.
  • Meine WLAN-Antenne ist wesentlich stärker als die aller anderen. Ergo sind alle anderen Loser.
  • Den ganzen Tag sitzen ist nicht gut für den Rücken.
  • Ich bin zu faul etwas anderes zu tun als den ganzen Tag sitzen.
  • …und noch viel mehr.

Nach acht Monaten…

Ja, na und?