Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dell to offer pre-installed Linux on desktops

I knew about the Dell survey which asked people whether they'd like to see Linux pre-installed on Dell desktops and laptops. Looks like more than 70% of the respondents said yes (see this BBC story) -- so Dell is going for it. Now the question is which flavor(s) of Linux will be offered. From what I remember, the survey mentioned Fedora Core, Ubuntu and OpenSuse. Regardless, this is a pretty big win for Linux.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

OLPC and the Romanian politicians

Interesting blog post from Jani Monoses on how the Romanian parliament rejected the country's participation in the OLPC program. All the arguments centered around cost and lack of applications such as....MS Word! As Jani says -- cluelessness abounds.

Having seen Ivan Krstic's keynote on OLPC at PyCon this year, I realize that the One Laptop Per Child program is mainly about re-introducing kids to their intuitive ways of learning, through play, peer activities and free exploration, as opposed to the centralized, one-to-many teaching method that is used in schools everywhere. The laptop becomes in this case just a tool for facilitating the new ways of learning -- or I should say the old ways, since this is what kids do naturally. But this is one of those disruptive ideas that is hard to grasp by serious grown-up people, especially politicians...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

File sharing with Apache and WebDAV

If you want to share files from a Linux box to Windows clients, Samba is a popular solution. However, it can also be done with Apache and WebDAV. Here is a short HOWTO.

1) Let's say we want to share files in a directory named /usr/share/myfiles. I created a sub-directory called dav in that directory, and then I ran:
# chmod 775 dav
# chgrp apache dav
2) Make sure httpd.conf loads the mod_dav modules:
LoadModule dav_module modules/
LoadModule dav_fs_module modules/
3) Create an Apache password file (if you want to use basic authentication) and a user -- let's call it webdav:
# htpasswd -c /etc/httpd/conf/.htpasswd webdav

4) Create a virtual host entry in httpd.conf, similar to this one:
<VirtualHost *>
DocumentRoot "/usr/share/myfiles"
<Directory "/usr/share/myfiles">
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
AllowOverride AuthConfig
Order allow,deny
allow from all
ErrorLog share-error.log
CustomLog share-access.log combined

DavLockDB /tmp/DavLock

<Location /dav>
Dav On
AuthType Basic
AuthName DAV
AuthUserFile /etc/httpd/conf/.htpasswd
Require valid-user

5) Restart httpd, verify that if you go to you are prompted for a user name and password, and that once you get past the security dialog you can see something like 'Index of /dav'.

Now it's time to configure your Windows client to see the shared WebDAV resource. On the Windows client, either:
  • go to "My network connections" and add a new connection, or
  • go to Windows Explorer->Tools->Map Network Drive, then click on "Signup for online storage or connect to a network server"
Either option will bring up the "Add Network Place Wizard".
  • Click Next, then select "Choose another network location", then click Next.
  • For "Internet or network address", set At this point you'll be prompted for a user name/password; specify the ones you defined above.
  • After mapping the resource, you should be able to read/write to it.

Sometimes the Windows dialog asking for a user name and password will say "connecting to" and will keep asking you for the user name/password. The dialog is supposed to show the text you set in AuthName (DAV in my case). If it doesn't, click Cancel, then try again. You can also try to force HTTP basic authentication (as opposed to Windows authentication, which is what Windows tries to do) by specifying as the URL. See also this entry on the WebDAV Wikipedia page.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ubuntu "command not found" magic

Via Alan Pope's blog: Ubuntu Edgy and above includes a "command not found magic" -- a bash hook that intercepts 'command not found' errors and replaces them with more useful messages, such as what packages you need to install to get that command. I tried it on my Edgy laptop and what do you know, it actually works.

First you need to apt-get the command-not-found package:

$ sudo apt-get install command-not-found
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
The following NEW packages will be installed:
command-not-found command-not-found-data
0 upgraded, 2 newly installed, 0 to remove and 15 not upgraded.
Need to get 471kB/475kB of archives.
After unpacking 6263kB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? y
Get:1 edgy/universe command-not-found-data 0.1.0 [471kB]
Fetched 300kB in 2s (109kB/s)
Selecting previously deselected package command-not-found-data.
(Reading database ... 92284 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking command-not-found-data (from .../command-not-found-data_0.1.0_i386.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package command-not-found.
Unpacking command-not-found (from .../command-not-found_0.1.0_all.deb) ...
Setting up command-not-found-data (0.1.0) ...
Setting up command-not-found (0.1.0) ...

Then you need to open a new shell window, so that the hook gets installed. In that window, try running some commands which are part of packages that you don't yet have installed. For example:

$ nmap
The program 'nmap' is currently not installed, you can install it by typing:
sudo apt-get install nmap

$ snort
The program 'snort' can be found in the following packages:
* snort-pgsql
* snort-mysql
* snort
Try: sudo apt-get install

Pretty cool, huh. And of course the bash hook is written in Python.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Founder of Debian joins Sun

Interesting announcement from Ian Murdoch, the founder of Debian: he's joining Sun as "Chief Operating Platforms Officer" (now that's a mouthful.) I've been really skeptical so far about Sun's embrace of Open Source, but this seems like a major step in the right direction.

CheeseRater - voting in the CheeseShop

Found via Joe Gregorio's blog: CheeseRater, a slick-looking Django app that lets you vote on CheeseShop packages. Interesting idea. Since tagging/redditing/social networking/web2.0ing/etc. are all the rage these days, this might prove more popular than the automatic scoring that MichaƂ is doing with the Cheesecake Service. Maybe we can combine the two....that would be interesting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stone soup as a cure for broken windows

Stones are used to break windows, but in this insightful blog post, Dave Nicolette shows how making stone soup (i.e. getting everybody to contribute a bit of something) can help deal with the broken windows syndrome. Getting everybody to contribute is an art I've been trying to master myself, but like any art, it's far from easy...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A few good agile men

Kumar sent me a link to a hilarious blog post: A few good managers. It's a gem. Excerpt:

"Marketing: "Did you cut the automated, edit sync [insert favorite feature here] feature?"

Development: "I did the job I was hired to do."

Marketing: "Did you cut the automated, edit sync feature?"
Development: "I delivered the release on time."

Marketing: "Did you cut the automated, edit sync feature?"
Development: "You're g%$#@*& right I did!""

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Modifying EC2 security groups via AWS Lambda functions

One task that comes up again and again is adding, removing or updating source CIDR blocks in various security groups in an EC2 infrastructur...