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

Hurricane Electric Free IPv6 Certification

Last week I mentioned a bit out IPv6 and that I was working on getting the Hurricane Electric Free IPv6 Certification. Well on Friday last week I completed the last tests, earning me a T-shirt and a neat little badge to put on my website(see below). I’m not sure how many brownie points this sort of cert would earn you in a job interview, but its fun and it proves that you know enough to get IPv6 working.

According to http://ipv6.he.net/certification/
“Users say that the Hurricane Electric Free IPv6 certification service is both entertaining and educational.
We aim to provide you with something to do after your first IPv6 ping.”

It took me about a week to complete all the steps, mainly because my DNS is currently hosted with Xname.org so changes to DNS records tend to take about a day to happen. If you have a reasonable amount of sysadmin knowledge and can configure things like web servers, DNS and mail, then you should be able to complete this in no time. Parts of the test are practical things like configuring your DNS and mail server to accept connections from IPv6 hosts. Other parts are answering multiple choice questions to demonstrate your knowledge of IPv6 and the tools used to manage it.

The kind people at Hurricane Electric have put together some handy video tutorials to help you through the certification process. They also offer free Tunnelbroker and DNS services for those who don’t have native IPv6 connectivity or DNS servers.

I highly recommend this to anyone looking at learning IPv6, and with the deletion of the IANA’s IPv4 pool at the end of January, that means everyone. Even if it doesn’t score you any brownie points at work, at least you get a free t-shirt out of it.

Before I go, I just want to remind everyone that I will be doing a talk on IPv6 on 14 April. I will most details about where it will be when I have them.

cya

SB

IPv6 Certification Badge for SmilyBorg

IPv6 and me

For some time I’ve been interested in IPv6(Internet Protocol version 6). I first heard about it while doing a TCP/IP module as part of an MCSE certification back in 1999. Back then IPv6 was in its infancy but Linux had experimental support for it. At the time, there wasn’t much info available, so while it interested me, I stuck to getting to know IPv4(Internet Protocol version 4) better.

Fast forward to 2007. I saw an announcement, somewhere on the net, saying that the AfriNIC meeting would be happening in Durban that year and there would be an IPv6 training workshop that would be run on the few days leading up to the meeting. Well, I managed to get my employer to pay for me to go and it was great. We had trainers from around the world, one of which was from Cisco, that came to teach us a about IPv6. There was a nice pile of Cisco routers and goodies in the corner that we got to play with too. After the 3 or 4 days(I can’t remember , it was almost 4 years ago) of training, I had a much better idea of what IPv6 was about and I experimented a little with it, but again, put it one side since there wasn’t a big need for it in my day to day life.

Over the last few years, I’ve mentioned IPv6 to a number of groups I’ve been involved with and guys have asked me to present talks about it, but they never happened. At the January Durban ISG/White Hat meeting, I was again asked to present on IPv6 and I said I would. During preliminary preparation for the talk I found out that there will be an IPv6 day on June 8 2011. So last week I committed to presenting a talk about IPv6 for the Durban ISG/White Hat group on 14 April so that everyone has time to get themselves ready for June 8.

As part of my preperations for the talk, I am also working on getting the Hurricane Electric IPv6 Certification. It’s prety easy to do if you are used to setting up web, mail and DNS servers, and its loads of fun.

Anyway, I’ll be posting bits of info over the coming weeks about IPv6 and how to set it up. Hopefully I don’t bore too many of you and hopefully I get some of you at least partially as excited about this “new” protocol as I am.

cya

SB

A new year

Well its a new year already. Eek, half way through February even, and its already looking to be a busy year.

First off, lets look at what happened in 2010.

  • I planned to blog more and totaly flaked on that.
  • I started a new job at a business inteligence company where I look after linux servers and VOIP call center stuff.
  • At the end of May I moved out of my dad’s house and into a nice little flat with my wonderful girlfriend.
  • I joined up with the Durban Wireless Community. Handy that one of their high sites was on the top of my new building ;-)
  • I built a new gaming PC that should last me a good long while.
  • I signed up with Virgin Active again, but started slacking towards the end of the year.

So far in 2011…

  • Got back from a lovely holiday in CapeTown. Such a wonder full city full of great people. Btw, the Protea Hotel Fire and Ice is quite something to see.
  • My girlfried and I celebrated our 2nd aniversery.
  • Signed up with Unisa again. I last studied with Unisa in about 2003/2004 and I figured its time I got back to it. A lot has changed at Unisa in the last few years, so I only signed up for one module this semester, but I’ll probably pick up a few more in the second half of the year.

Looking forward for the rest of the year, I can see that there will be changes and with everything that is going on I’m gonna be rather busy. Some projects for the year include…

  • Playing with plug computers. I’ve already ordered one from Tonido, but if it works well, I’ll probably get a few more for various projects.
  • Adding IPv6 support to my home network and get a new certification
  • Start playing with Asterisk at home again
  • Go to gym more. I really need to eliminate a bit of spare tire and work on my flexibility.
  • Start playing with Android programming
  • Look into playing with Software Defined Radio and maybe setup a WebSDR
  • I plan to investigate the use of standing desks and tread desks
  • Look into starting a GeekNic
  • And much more…

Anyway.. this post has been siting in my drafts folder for about a month now, so I’m going to leave it there for now.

Busy month

Hi all

Its been a busy month since my last post. I have moved out of my fathers house and into a flat with my girlfriend. Last week was mostly packing up her stuff, the weekend was moving it and this week has been unpacking. Most of my stuff still needs to be moved from the bluff though. Luckily my brother is gonna help me with moving my desk this evening.

One nasty bit about moving is internet-less-ness. We have been using cellphones for connectivity for the last week which is slow and gets really expensive. Luckily Telkom installed my phone line yesterday. Hopefully they wil activate adsl on it soon. Apparently it could take a week or 2 rather than the usual day or 2 thanks to the soccer world cup. Yet annother reason for me to despise the event.

Health wise, I think I’m ok. Been feeling pretty tired and crappy the last few days though. I think it might be after effects of over exertion while moving.

For those who don’t know, I have been growing my hair since I got back from Cape Town after Xmas. My fring now reaches past my eyes which is enough to really be annoying when it gets in your eyes. To reduce irritation, I have started wearing a hair band when I’m doing things that would get it in my eyes. Hopefully it won’t be too long befor I can just tie the whole lot back.

Anyway, that’s my bit for now. Time to grab some more caffiene befor heading back to the office.

Cya

SB

The state of me

Its been ages since I last posted anything here so time for an update.

Today is my 29th birthday and life is still interesting. Interesting in the sense of the old Chinese curse. Sometimes its good and sometimes its not so good, but always something to make you think and learn from. I’m still learning loads about myself and others, which has the odd effect of showing you how little you know. I think I’m now more confused about who and what I am than I have ever been but that’s the price I pay for exploring. Maybe one day I will figure it out, maybe I never will, but at least the journey is interesting.

The past few years have been some of the more interesting ones I think, at least from a meeting people stand point. Growing up I met the types of people most people are used to. Doctors, accountants, teachers, engineers, etc. After school I started working and things were pretty much the same as when I was in school. I went to work, did what I was paid to do and came home. I would hang out with friends from time to time but we had grown up together so it wasn’t anything new. Then I started looking around at things outside of IT that seemed interesting. Thanks to the internet I was able to learn more about things and ideas that I was never exposed to before. Even better I was able to find people nearby that were interested in the same things. As a result, over the last few years I have met people who identify as witches, monks, hackers, polyamorous, swingers, slaves, sadists, masochists, kinky, cross dressers, transgender, queer, gay, lesbian and bi sexual. These are just a few that spring to mind and there are many more.

What have I learned through meeting these people? Well, people may take on various labels but underneath we are pretty similar in that we all just want to be accepted as we are. We are all different and we need to learn to be accepting of those differences as they help to provide us with the extremely varied experience that we call life. There is a nice phrase I learned from the kink community that I think puts things quite nicely. “Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is OK.” My grandmother put it a little differently when I told her about my polyamourous relationship. She said “as long as you are happy and no one is getting hurt, I’m happy for you” or something like that the conversation was a while back and my memory is fuzzy.

Anyway, my lunch break is over any I’ve probably gone on too long already. Until next time ….

SB

Saphu vs. Java

“It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed,
the hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning.
It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.”

Original version
——————————-
“It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the juice of Saphu that thoughts acquire speed,
that lips acquire stains, stains become a warning.
It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.”
- Frank Herbert – Dune

An alternate stream of conciousness in a topsy turvy world