#3PositiveThings

Ok, so I’ve been slack over the last few days. I think I have a fairly good excuse though. My phone died and I’ve been running around trying to look after my partner who was in hospital last week.

I did think about my 3 things on at least some of the days and here are some of them.

  • Partner’s operations going well
  • Cheep backup phones
  • Partner coming home
  • Fun picnics with friends
  • New phones/tech gadgets
  • Days lazing at home
  • Naps
  • Fun games

Ok, so I didn’t complete a day and I missed a day, or maybe I just don’t remember them. I’ve been busy ok. Hopefully I’ll do better at this. I might just put these on Twitter in future for ease of posting. Will see.

cya

SB

 

3 Positive Things

So I found an interesting new app the other day called Lift. From what I can gather it’s supposed to help you reach your goals by building good habits.

While I was looking through the list of goals to choose from, I found one titled “Write three positive things about today”. I figured this would be a good thing to do. It occurs to me that its much like the concepts of being grateful for something every day or Things That Don’t Suck that I wrote about a while back, but kind of combining the two. I did a quick search on the net and #3PositiveThings is a thing.

So I figure I’ll give this a try. I’ll try to post 3 positive things about my day on my blog, Twiter, Facebook or something. Yes some days it feels like everything sucks, but there are positive things in our lives. Sometimes its just food to eat, a roof over your head and a shoulder to cry on. Some people don’t even have that. Remembering that not everything sucks can be all we need to drag ourselves through the day. So, I’m going to give this a go. Maybe some of you will too.

cya

SB

 

Musical tastes

So, last week I was in Cape Town and was lucky enough to catch up with some friends, new and old.

During lunch the one day there was a discussion about tastes in music. I’ve always been a bit odd. I think my domain name shows that. I told the story about the time I was driving around with friends and the music in the car jumped from Industrial to Jazz, and how my friends looked at me funny.  Of course the conversation then turned to what I listen to and I gave some examples of bands/groups/artists that most people I know have never heard of.  While I think the artists I mentioned definitely underscored the fact that I’m strange, some searches on Youtube showed my lunch mates that my tastes are definitely fun. The world would be boring if we were all the same right?

So here are a few of the interesting things I like to listen to.

For more of what I listen to, check out my Last.fm and Rdio accounts.

 

Quick update

Hey folks, it’s been a while since I did an actual update. Life has been fairly interesting and busy over the last while. There have been lots of ups and downs, some of which I’m not ready to talk about publicly. What I do want to tell you about are some events/places that I’ve visited lately.

Ok, so first up was Pecha Kucha Durban Vol.11 back on Thursday 12 June. For those of you who are familiar with TED talks or Ignite talks, this is something similar. People get up on stage and tell the audience about something they are interested in. Each speaker has 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide.  It’s a tough one but it means that people have to get to the core of what they want to convey without being overly verbose. The night I went had an interesting selection of topics from organic farming, to architecture, to co-working spaces. I am really glad I went and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who attended.  The event was hosted at The Foundry and afterwards the Open Plan Studio, which is next door, was opened up for people to take a look around.

Next up was National Board Game Day. Some time back I did some Googleing for a friend and found out about a place called The Unseen Shoppe. This is a small shop devoted to various forms of gaming, whether it be card games, board game, RPGs, wargames, etc. I had thought about checking out the place, but just hadn’t got that far. Well, this past public holiday, 16 June, I figured I’d go check it out. When I arrived I saw 3 games in progress on tables in the front of the store. I wandered around, not recognising any of the games that were being played, but I recognised a few that were available for sale. I was greeted by one of the members of staff who asked if I needed any help or if I’d like to join their game. I decided to just watch initially and sat down to watch what looked like a really fun game where the objective is to survive a zombie apocalypse. After that game ended I was again invited to try a game, this time a simple, but very fun game, involving dragons flying around the board trying to not crash into each other or fall off the board. I joined the game, but had to leave shortly after we finished. Something I loved about this little adventure was that this wasn’t a completely male environment. Yes, the ladies were outnumbered by the guys, but everyone seemed to get along fine doing something they enjoyed. A bit of further research indicated that there is a group called Geek Girls Durban who seem to hang out at the Unseen Shoppe and another place called The BatCave. I’m looking forward to hanging out at the Unseen Shoppe more in future.

So that covers my recent adventures, now for some info about events that are coming up.

This coming Saturday, 21 June, The Durban Linux User Group will be having a get together at Gloria Jean’s Coffees in Davenport Square from 10am to 2pm. More details can be found on the event pages on Facebook and Google+.

On Friday 27 June, the Durban kink/BDSM community will be having a play party. Booking is essential so go find the details on Fetlife.

Next Saturday, 28 June, there will be a number of events happening. Firstly we have the Durban Polyamory social breakfast at Circus Circus Beach Cafe from 8am to 10am. There is Durban Pride at the Sharks Stadium Outer Fields from 10am. Geek Girls Durban will also be hosting a Second Hand Book Sale at The Unseen Shoppe.

I think that covers June. Eish, what a busy month, especially after moving during the first 2 weeks. Stay tuned for July though. Dates still have to be confirmed but I will be hosting the July Durban Polyamory Lunch/Picnic with the topic of “How to make safer sex fun”. This should be an interesting one. There has also been a suggestion for me to do a talk about the stuff I do with rope, in a more public setting, though I haven’t even had time to think about that one yet.

Have fun.

SB

Untitled

Exhausted I sip my morning “coffee,,
It’s not real but I need to be awake for work.
I sit at my desk trying to gather strength to get through the day
I have work to do and it pays the bills

I am grateful
I have 2 wonderful partners who love me and tell me that I’m beautiful
I have family that I get along with
I have a sprinkling of friends and community that help me feel that I belong
I have a job that pays the bills and I’m only weeks away from being debt free

Why then do I feel like a prisoner?
my body and mind betray me
looking out at my dreams through a narrow slit
waiting for the day I get to be me again
or maybe for the first time
was I ever really me?

New adventures ahead

First off, I know it’s been ages since I last posted here. I know I always say that but it’s true. I’ve had a bit of a rocky time lately.

I was retrenched at the end of October 2013 and thus have been unemployed for the last 2 months. Being the end of the year, the job market is a bit difficult since everyone is in holiday mode. I’m hoping that thing pick up early in the new year, but my unemployment has lead to the need for changes.

I’ll be moving in with my aunt and her partner after Xmas. They have very kindly allowed me to live with them until such time as I am back on my feet. They have a lovely home in Westville.  Moving of course means having to downsize, get rid of stuff and put some stuff in storage. This is a somewhat sad and stressful exercise, but I’m hoping that it will be for the better in the long run. I seem to have inherited some pack rat tenancies from my parents and grandparents and I’m hoping to use this opportunity to start living a bit more of a minimalist lifestyle, just holding on to the things that are necessary and have actual value in my life. This move will unfortunately cause a period of internet-less-ness in my life. I’ll still have some connectivity via my phone, but that is a far cry from the uncapped ADSL that I’m used to. This may not be my only move for the foreseeable future. There is a very real chance that I may have to move to Cape Town, Johannesburg or Pretoria for work as the job market for people with my skill set is fairly dismal in Durban.

After my move, I hope to start working on a few projects. First of all is revamping the StrangeMinds IT infrastructure. I’ve had everything running on a VPS at Hetzner.de for some time now and it generally works really well. Occasionally though, the system hangs and needs a reboot. I have not been able to ascertain whether this is an issue with my configuration or with the hosting platform. I have since acquired hosting at Cloudatcost.com and will be looking at either totally migrating things there or running both in order to have some level of redundancy. I’m also looking at migrating from Apache to Nginx and putting all the config stuff in a tool like Puppet or Chef. We will see what happens though.

Once the StrangeMinds infrastructure is sorted out, I need to look at infrastructure for the Durban Linux User Group. I currently host their site but I think it needs a bit of attention as it is looking rather bland. Some of the members have formed a Documentation User Group to write manuals and training material to help new users get going on using Linux and Free Software. They need a server on which to host a collaborative editing system and thus we are looking at doing a small crowd funding campaign to cover the cost of that. I will then most likely take on some of the basic system admin tasks of looking after the server.

Over the past year or so, I’ve felt the need to be a bit more active as far as posting content to the net. Thus far I have not been successful, but in the new year I hope to change that. For starters I’d like to document much of my server setup and administration tasks in a series of blog posts. I’m also hoping to start doing a vlog and/or podcast at some point. Vince from the DBN-LUG has made a good start on that for the LUG via the Google+ hangouts that he has hosted and I’d like to help him to polish it into something really awesome.

I think that’s all I really have to report on at this point. I could complain about how The Department of Home Affairs has still not sorted out my new ID book after 15 months but that’s a topic for another post all together.

cya

SB

Things that don’t suck

I have a reasonably good life. I have a roof over my head, food to eat and I’m usually relatively healthy. Though these are the basics of survival, and simply surviving does not make life worth living. In our every day lives we have a lot of ups and downs, that’s life, but it can be really easy to focus on the bad stuff, which can eventually leave us feeling really bad and not knowing why we carry on. Some time back I was told about the concept of making lists of things that don’t suck, as a way of remembering that not everything is bad and that some stuff is even pretty awesome. So here is my first of what I hope will be many posts about things that don’t suck.

  • Cuddling with a loved one
  • Good books
  • YouTube
  • Warm weather

Cuddling is great. During cuddling your brain releases oxytocin and endorphins which make you feel good. It also helps to reduce stress and blood pressure.

Good books. Recently I’ve been listening to(yes I use audio books because I’m a busy person) Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I bought the book years ago but never got very far into it since I would always get distracted with other things and its a pretty big book. The paperback is 1168 pages and the audio book is nearly 43 hours long. It is however a really amazing book. Being a pretty general purpose geek, and more specifically a computer geek, I often time find myself smiling or laughing at some of the really detailed descriptions of geeky quirks and behaviour that are depicted in the book.

YouTube has become my daily source of video entertainment. I do not own a TV and I feel no need to own one. YouTube is full of so much entertaining and educational content that I very seldom am left with “nothing to watch”. Recently I stumbled across videos by Hank and John Green. These brothers started video blogging back in around 2007 and have produced a mountain of awesome content since. Along with their sort video blog entries, they have also started a number of educational shows along with their friends. With John covering literature and history and Hank covering various aspects of science, there is always something interesting to learn from them. Did I mention that they are cute, geeky and funny too? Hank and I even share a birthday.

Warm weather. While some would say that Durban is always warm, I might have to disagree with them. I seem to be an odd creature that likes a very narrow range of temperatures to be comfortable. The weather has been really warm end even scorchingly hot in Durban lately, and while I really don’t like being all sweaty and sticky, I much prefer it to being cold.

Anyway, that’s just a quick look at some things that don’t suck in my life right now. What things don’t suck in your life?

 

SB

Durban Linux User Group

So, pretty much anyone who knows me, knows that I’m into Linux. And by Into Linux, I mean I’m pretty much obsessed with it. Well, not necessaries just Linux, but free/libre/open-source software(FLOSS) and hardware for that matter. My journey started back in 1996 when I got my hands on a book called “Running Linux” which was packaged with a CD pack that contained a few Linux distributions and a whole bunch of software. A friend and I messed around with it for a while but it wasn’t until we bumped into the guys from the Linux Enthusiast’s Association of Durban(LEAD) at the local computer expo, that things really got going for us. We attended our first install fest where experienced guys helped us get our computers setup and working properly with Linux. We started attending the monthly meetings and learned loads of stuff and made some great friends. That was all around 1998/1999.

I the years that followed I attended every meeting that I could, even if the topic wasn’t something that interested me at the moment. I partly did this so that I would know who to ask later if I needed help, partly so I could point people at the right person if they asked me for help and largely because it meant that I got to socialize with a lot of people who were just as passionate and geeky as I was. As time went on, my skills grew and I was able to help people with questions on the mailing list. I even started doing presentations to the group which was scary at first, but also loads of fun. Over the years at least 2 really great jobs came from my involvement with the group. Sadly, around the end of October 2009, the LEAD mailing list ceased to function. I don’t know all the details, but from what I hear, the free hosting that was being used, became no longer free and a suitable new host was not found in time. Meetings had not happened for some time at that point due to a lack of speakers and subject requests from the community.

Anyway, fast forward to March of this year(2011). My girlfriend and I were in the car driving somewhere, when I started complaining about the lack of Linux community in Durban. Having been a community organizer for many years, her response to me was “if the community you want doesn’t exist, create it yourself”. I took this to heart, and by the end of the weekend I had created a Google Groups mailing list and invited a bunch of the people who I still kept in contact with from the old LEAD days. Moderation duties were and still are being performed by Andrea Foster, Edrich de Lange and myself. Initially I had thought to just keep it a mailing list and let others arrange meetings/events if they wanted to as I didn’t want to end up in a situation where everything was lumped on me, I burn out, and the community goes away. In May a number of people mentioned that they would really like meetings to start again, so we organised a meeting to discuss it. This took place on 29 May 2011 at Europa in Florida Road. About 10 or 11 people attended and it was decided that we would start meetings again, but that a committee would be formed to spread the workload. 5 committee members volunteered, Edrich de Lange, Ralfe Poisson, David Bisschoff, Vincent Swart and myself. Meetings were scheduled for the first Thursday of the month and our first official meeting was held on 7 July 2011. I was really happy with the turnout of about 12-13 people, especially since the venue had to be changed the day before the event. What really made me hopeful for the group’s future was that at least half of those in attendance were new faces to me.

When I started the mailing list, I called it DBNLUG, short for Durban Linux User Group. This was partly because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes from the previous group, and partly to show that it is a new group, under new “management”. Those of us on the committee and moderation staff, hold no ill will towards the LEAD organizers, in fact I still have the utmost respect for them and their hard work for so many years. It’s just that DBN-Lug is sort of the next generation of the LUG if that makes any sense.

Over the past almost 2 months, the committee have been hard at work getting this organised for the group. We now have a hosted server where we will be moving the mailing list to since the Google Groups system seems to have some nasty glitches from time to time. The new mailing list is not yet active, but it will be soon. We also have a basic website up at http://durbanlinux.org.za which has links to places where you can find us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. There are placeholder links that will link to a Blog, Wiki and Planet page as soon as we can get those setup. And lastly there are links to the current mailing list and a link to mail the committee.

All in all, I think the LUG is coming together nicely with quite a few very enthusiastic users. An LPI study group mailing list has already been spawned by one of our members and there are whispers of the possible resurrection of BarCampDurban at some point in the future. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Linux community in Durban and I’m glad I get to be a part of it.

System Apps on CyanogenMod

Some of you may know that I have been a fan of the Android operating system for phones for some time. Some of you may also know that I own 2 HTC Dream handsets. Don’t worry I won’t do into the hassles I’ve had with the hardware. Due to Leaf, the local HTC distributors, not providing software updates for the phone, other than 1.1 to 1.5, I have been using the CyanogenMod aftermarket firmware.

Now I’ve been very happy with the CyanogeMod firmware and have found it to be much more stable and responsive then the default firmware supplied by Leaf. A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out why I kept running out of storage space though, especially when updating apps. now I know the HTC Dream has a rather small amount of storage in it. When looking in the “Manage Applications” menu, I noticed that apps that used to only show under the All tab, now showed up under Downloaded. When then looking at the app details, I then had the option to Uninstall Updates. This lead me to investigate further.

Wanting to dig into the guts of my phone, I broke out ADB(Android Debug Bridge) which is part of the Android SDK. ADB gives me console access to the phone via a USB cable. From this point my phone is essentially a Linux system, since that is what Android is based on. To start with I wanted to know how my filesystem was layed out. Using the mount and df commands I was able to see a bit of how things are put together.

# mount
rootfs on / type rootfs (ro,relatime)
tmpfs on /dev type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=755)
devpts on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,relatime,mode=600)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,relatime)
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,relatime)
none on /acct type cgroup (rw,relatime,cpuacct)
tmpfs on /mnt/asec type tmpfs (rw,relatime,mode=755,gid=1000)
none on /dev/cpuctl type cgroup (rw,relatime,cpu)
/dev/block/mtdblock3 on /system type yaffs2 (ro,relatime)
/dev/block/mtdblock5 on /data type yaffs2 (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime)
/dev/block/loop0 on /system/xbin type squashfs (ro,relatime)
/dev/block/mtdblock4 on /cache type yaffs2 (rw,nosuid,nodev,relatime)
/dev/block/vold/179:1 on /mnt/sdcard type vfat (rw,dirsync,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,uid=1000,gid=1015,fmask=0702,dmask=0702,allow_utime=0020,codepage=cp437,iocharset=iso8859-1,shortname=mixed,utf8,errors=remount-ro)
/dev/block/vold/179:1 on /mnt/secure/asec type vfat (rw,dirsync,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime,uid=1000,gid=1015,fmask=0702,dmask=0702,allow_utime=0020,codepage=cp437,iocharset=iso8859-1,shortname=mixed,utf8,errors=remount-ro)
tmpfs on /mnt/sdcard/.android_secure type tmpfs (ro,relatime,size=0k,mode=000)
# df
Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
tmpfs 49300 0 49300 0% /dev
tmpfs 49300 0 49300 0% /mnt/asec
/dev/block/mtdblock3 92160 88356 3804 96% /system
/dev/block/mtdblock5 91904 77812 14092 85% /data
/dev/block/loop0 4096 4096 0 100% /system/xbin
/dev/block/mtdblock4 30720 19144 11576 62% /cache
/dev/block/vold/179:1
986016 774008 212008 78% /mnt/sdcard
/dev/block/vold/179:1
986016 774008 212008 78% /mnt/secure/asec
#

From this we see that there isn’t much space at all. Digging around, I found that apps are stored in 2 locations, /system/app/ and /data/app/ I found that “system apps” are the apps that are on the phone when you bit it up for the first time. “data apps” are apps that you install yourself, and software updates. The fun bit I noticed was that /system is mounted read-only, so as you install software updates, you have the new version of an app in /data/app and the old one sitting in /system/app. This doesn’t work for me so I set out to rectify the situation.

Since my an android phone is just a Linux system under the hood, I figured my usual sysadmin type tricks would work, so I tried to re-mount /system in read-write mode.

# mount -o remount,rw /system

This worked. Great, now to not destroy my phone.

Looking in /data/app I see the following

# ls /data/app
com.adobe.reader-1.apk
com.appspot.swisscodemonkeys.apps-2.apk
com.botsync-1.apk
com.dropbox.android-2.apk
com.evernote-1.apk
com.farproc.wifi.analyzer-2.apk
com.google.android.gm-1.apk
com.zegoggles.smssync-1.apk
ki.wardrive-1.apk
#

Knowing what apps are on my phone, I assume that com.google.android.gm-1.apk is the updated version of the Gmail app. Looking in /system/app/ I see that the version there is named Gmail.apk. So after making a backup copy of the original APK file to my SDcard, I move the updated app to the /system/app/ directory.

# cp /system/app/Gmail.apk /sdcard/
# mv /data/app/com.google.android.gm-1.apk /system/app/Gmail.apk
#

At this point I figured a reboot of the phone might be a good idea just in case something was in memory that relied on that app. You may also want to wipe the app data and cache for any apps that you move, just to be safe that noting is still addressing the old location. After the reboot everything still works ok and I have some extra space in /data/app/ that I can use for more apps.

Warning: This worked for me, but I have not checked with anyone else that it is a good idea. I did this first on my “test phone” and after I was happy that everything worked, I did it to my “stable phone”. If you only have one phone. Please be careful since if you do something wrong you may need to re-flash your firmware to get things working again.

Anyway, I hope someone finds this useful.

cya

SB

An alternate stream of conciousness in a topsy turvy world