Archive for the ‘Bla Bla’ Category

Blog moving

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I’m moving my blog from the Fellowship of FSFE setup to my own hosting, over at This is the penultimate post on this particular incarnation of bobulate (a name that travels from blog installation to blog installation, for five years now).

Change of direction

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I see it’s been about six weeks since I last wrote something – anything – on my blog. Since then we’ve had Sinterklaas, Christmas, New Year’s, I’ve baked a variety of things that might have spiced up various tech articles, there have been interesting patent issues, etc. etc. My mind hasn’t really been on writing about that kind of stuff. My brother was over from Ethiopia, so I now have a fine assortment of spices and an Amharic cheat-sheet. Good holiday-season topics, but not something to bother Planet KDE (or other aggregations) with.

Allen kept reminding me of some sysadmin-ish things I needed to do with the EBN, so that finally was fixed, and now it has some useful DNS aliases as well. There was some occasional KDE e.V. work. didn’t get as much done there as I might have wanted — there’s the Sprints web-app and Sprints wiki pages update to go as well as the KDE e.V. website to clean up.

Anyway, time to wake up. December 1st I started a new job in a non-KDE programming position; I hack Python and documentation now. It’s for a non-profit association and development is Open-Source-ish — association members have SVN access, for instance. There’s some new sysadminning things to learn (like runnning Edgewall’s Trac) and I have many reasons to be thankful for today’s KDE 4.5.4 on Windows release. So far I’ve been using VMWare Player to avoid a good deal of pain — suffice to say that KMail on the desktop kicks Outlook squarely in the nadgers (a range of mountains near the Hub).

I’ve gotten used to the commute, reading the papers on the way out and using my n900 to catch up on KDE news on the way home in the evenings. What I do miss is a good WordPress blogging client on the phone (e.g. Blogilo). A nice Trac client would be a bonus, too. Maybe I will get into mobile apps development with Qt.

Bun in the oven

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Mira en Amiel zetten de schoenA letter made of bread

It’s nearly December, which means that Sinterklaas is on his way in the Netherlands. During the recent board meeting it took quite some time to explain to Celeste how Sint works. One good resource is the Sinterklaasjournaal. It’s basically the evening news — produced by the same crew and hosted by Dieuwertje Blok, who was the national news anchor in the lates ’80s — related to Sinterklaas.

Anyway, the kids are big into Sinterklaas, and dutifully set out their shoes when the time comes. Here’s the kids (six and seven years old) after setting out their shoes, complete with a drawing for Sint and Piet and a carrot for the horse. The next morning they had both received a letter of their name in bread; see here Amiel’s initial. You will notice the bite out of the upper right — that’s because this year there is a Baby Piet who is taking bites out of all the candy being made in the candy factory in Harderwijk.

Yes, this is madness, but it’s the best kind of madness. No worse than late-friday-afternoon wrestling with the KDE e.V. website or policy documents.

The bun in the oven is a whole-wheat-and-sesame loaf, actually.

Murphy’s Day

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

If something weird is happening with a server, never think “It’ll just be an hour or two.” Never think “If I’m going to be in the server room anyway, I might as well do foo as well to another box.” Since I thought both of these foolish things, it shows off that there’s definitely areas of Linux system administration that I’m no good at and that are needlessly complicated, and that I’m an inveterate optimist when it comes to these things.

The CodeYard server — a five year old IBM x306 with hard drives showing over 30000 hours of continuous operation and which has had uptimes over 500 days — slowed to a crawl, then rebooted yesterday. Sjors pinged me by phone, so I biked to the University to take a look with him. While en-route, the box did another kernel panic while running fsck(8). Ugh.

Now, working on a server that has two partially-mirrored 250GB SATA-150 hard drives and only 1GB of RAM (seriously, when we got this machine it was a sensible box for supporting medium sized workgroups, now my phone has more oomph) just takes forever. It never takes just an hour or two to wait for GEOM mirror to complete and then the fsck(8) to wind up and then .. bam, another kernel panic. By the end of the day we hadn’t really pinned down what was causing the problem, but memcheck seems in order.

All the data — students SVN and git repositories — on the machine seems safe, but we’ve pretty much turned off all the services offered by the box by various service jails until we get things sorted out.

So one failure doesn’t a Murphy’s day make. The second is that my laptop — which worked in the morning and didn’t when I got to the server room — has suddenly forgotten that it has a display panel attached to it, so I don’t see a thing. Not even BIOS POST messages. It still seems to boot into Fedora OK and I can even log in to my wonderful pink desktop (now there’s a blessing in disguise). Can’t see a thing. This particularly puts a crimp in the plan to use the laptop as a KDE demonstration machine during the NLUUG fall conference. I might end up lugging a desktop machine along instead.

In parallel with all this I did some upgrades on the EBN machine, which was foolish of me. That server had been running off of a spare laptop drive for some time now — a situation that was bound to come crashing down at some point. So the plan was simple: add a 500GB data disk, put back the Sun 10kRPM SAS disk that came out of the machine some time ago, copy boot stuff to SAS disk, reboot, done.

Yeah, right.

Three things I’d forgotten: dump + restore no longer works, making disks bootable is non-trivial and initrd is some brain-dead invention intended to prevent you from moving things around effectively. Give me FreeBSD, which at least will boot (quickly) and then complain and you can type in the root directory for single-user mode in a human-friendly fashion.

In the end I dd’ed the old disk onto the new disk, then did a chroot and mkinitrd. It just doesn’t seem right. Maybe I’ve missed a really obvious manpage somewhere explaining how the boot process works nowadays and how to migrate an installation to a different disk (lazyweb!). Tracking down the remaining references to the old disk took a bit longer, but the machine is up-and-running again. Now my next challenge is to convince the disk subsystem that I hot-attached a new drive (which would be /dev/sdf) which is physically identical to /dev/sde, and then dd everything over again so there’s a spare boot disk.

Plenty of things to go wrong. In retrospect, the old Nethack adage serves best (e.g. when going down stairs while burdened with a cockatrice corpse) “just don’t do that.”


Monday, November 1st, 2010

Scary midnight pumpkinSo hallowe’en has shuffled off, zombie-like, for another year. Darkness falls faster now, with the start of daylight saving. About every three months, folks in this street in Lent grasp an opportunity to hold a street party. This time I actually made flyers stating a time, date (not everyone is hip to hallowe’en in the Netherlands) and place and the instructions “bring food and/or drink and we’ll see what happens.” Those instructions apply to most of our street-fests. There’s almost 20 kids in the immediate neighbourhood, so they rush around until tired and the adults produce some very nice bits of cookery. Ms. I. had pumpkin flaps (like apple turnovers, but with pumpkin) and Ms. B. had a fine pumpkin-chicken pie. There was beer, wine, more beer, jenever and special Texels bitter and the fires burned down around midnight — that’s what you get when the next day is a working day for most.

The photo is of the pumpkin I made with Mira and Amiel; they grew it in their garden plot and it grew to about 10kg. They did the design and I wielded the butcher’s knife — although I did make Mira scoop out the pumpkin gloop with her bare hands, for the scary slimy hallowe’en feeling.

Lazyweb, Ethiopian

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Dear Lazyweb,

My brother lives in Addis Ababa. This means I sometimes get cool stuff (like coffee straight from the highlands) and sometimes rather incomprehensible parcels in the mail. In this case, I have a sachet of "Raw Tikur Azmude" and a bag of very interestingly colored beans. See photo. Since my Amharic just isn’t what it needs to be — and I still have Hausa on the list of things to do above learning Amharic — I’m at a loss as to what to do with this. So anyone with some Ethiopian cooking hints, please drop me a note.

Love in International cooking,


Link Dump / N900

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Lots of links and interesting tidbits come my way. Most are KDE related, sometimes computer science. I thought I’d clear up my backlog of items for once.

Some folks have asked me what I think of the Nokia N900. Blog posts like that by Dinesh or Ben prodded me, but what worked best was spotting an N900 in the wild. See, I know KDE and Qt developers have this device. Nokia kindly ensures that we have access. But does it get used by anyone else? The Register (a UK IT publication I like to read) is ferociously anti-Nokia, so I rarely read any good news. Combine that with decidedly poor availability of the N900 in the Netherlands — none of the telco’s carried it — and it’s felt rather lonely with one. The device I’m using is one of those handed out at the Maemo summit in Amsterdam. I didn’t attend, but someone who did passed the device on to me.

Now, I’m not necessarily a smartphone user. I tend to move from home to office by train, don’t have lots of "road warrior" in me, and I can stand being offline for, say, an hour while moving between one location and another. I love the Nokia 6300 form factor. Small, sturdy, makes phone calls and is a nice mp3 player as well. In a pinch it can even load up or another website. That said, I may as well start with what I perceive to be the downsides of the device — which should be no surprise here. Size and battery life. The thing is heavy, which makes longer phone calls a drag. it lasts two, maybe three days on a charge if it sees little use and doesn’t hook up to a wifi hotspot — the latter is a real drain. Compare to the week I get with the 6300 or three weeks with a 2310 (again, I’m not a heavy phone user, so standby time is actually most important to me).

Software-wise there are a few annoyances (setting a ringtone is much harder than it needs to be) but I really appreciate the openness of the platform. Debian packages? Pre-built VM for development? SSH out of the box? An XTerm? Ticks all the boxes for me. IRC over SSH to irssi running on a server is just what I always do — hasn’t anyone built Quassel for this device yet? Software updates are a little slow, but I appreciate it that it also flags updates for third-party apps. I have an early release of KDEPIM-Mobile installed, which needs an update, and there’s Marble too.

The keyboard is nice as long as you’re not using emacs. All in all I’d say the N900 is the smallest laptop I’ve ever owned — and it makes calls, too.


Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Even if Talk Like a Pirate Day (developer idea: implement tlapd, a proxy LDAP server that mangles replies to be more piratey or which intercepts http requests) passed quiety for me this year, I’m still partial to the (ahem) romantic ideals of the pirate. So when Something Positive pointed to a Steve Jackson floortop game Evil Stevie’s Pirate Game which combines Pirates, Lego ships and large group gaming. Whee!

Recent kitchen projects have included a totally failed meringue pie and chocolate ice cream — neither of which the kids liked, but which nonetheless disappeared so quickly no photos are available. And I think I’m getting the hang of white bread now, too. Need to work on getting the crust just right.

GUUG’s Linux Kongress is on right now, if you’re near Nuremberg. NLUUG’s Fall Conference, with Security and Privacy as topics, is coming up at the beginning of November.

Lastly, I’m happy to hear tales of people (like Frederik) Joining the Game. Coincidence that he describes what KDE e.V. does the same day I write a rather dry item on the same topic? Mystery! At least he can spell “e.V.” properly, which I couldn’t.

Bread in the Bone

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

After the summer months — during which I’ve been in hiding, of sorts — I thought I’d pick up with recipe blogging first. In the style of Ariya Hidayat. When he’s not doing ridiculously cool things, he has nice photos of various dishes.

During the summer months I’ve picked up making bread as a nice relaxing activity. The feel of the flour as it sticks to your fingers, the elasticity after kneading the dough, the stink of yeast and the smell of fresh-baked bread in the kitchen contribute to that relaxation. Yesterday’s exercise was a bread braid — just plain whole wheat rolled out and then braided, so that you get a loaf with some character. My intention had been to take a picture of it, but the kids (and myself) liked it so much that the whole thing was devoured in under a half hour. Well, that was dinner taken care of, at least.

No bread today, but I’ll point to a scone recipe on the BBC site that is quick and tasty. 20 minutes from “braaaaaains … I mean, scones” to the finished product is just right. I poke a single raisin on the top of each scone — a raisin which is duly removed and dropped on the floor by the kids.

Bread is different from software. You mix in the right ingredients, follow the build instructions, and what comes out varies based on the phase of the moon or the draught in the kitchen or a hundred other variables not under your control. Oh, wait, maybe it is like software packaging. But more on that some other time.

Back in time (2)

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Different kind of back-in-time post, this time more like Marty McFly. I started Akregator (Kubuntu 10.4 installation) to reduce the amount of planet-surfing I do, and it comes up with a bunch of pre-configured feeds. One of them is Akregator News. It’s a fascinating time machine. I guess it’s in the default configuration and just never got changed, since it still points to the SourceForge pages. News articles about Qt 3.2, KDE 3.4 (remember that PIM skipped one minor then?). News stopped then and it moved to the blog, which culminated with KDE3-to-4 build instructions in december 2005. My. Have we been in KDE4-land (the long winding road to 4.0 and thereafter) for four and a half years already?