Ubuntu Server

I’m downloading Fiesty Fawn (the latest version of Ubuntu), to put on my laptop when my new hard drive comes. (UPS, where are you?!)

I just noticed, while on their site, Ubuntu Server. And I’m itching to play with it. I’m currently running Gentoo as my server, because I’ve come to the conclusion that, even though I’m not a professional sysadmin, I’m way, way smarter than RPM is, and way, way smarter than cPanel is. Gentoo isn’t the easiest-to-use, but the easy-to-use tools I’ve worked with aren’t 1/10th as effective as the difficult-to-use tools that I’ve learned.

Except for Ubuntu, which is “stupid easy” to use, yet works great. Even though I’ve got lots of experience maintaining Gentoo, both as a desktop and server, my ‘new’ laptop installations will run Ubuntu, not Gentoo. (Windows is sticking around too, though.)

So I’m itching to try Ubuntu Server. It looks like setting up a webserver consists of clicking a couple things, rather than emerge‘ing 10 packages, wading through all sorts of config files, and so forth. And yet it’s based on Debian, and comes with nothing running by default: did they just design an OS that was secure by default and easy to use?

Anyone here have any experience with it? Does it hold up well, or can my semi-well-tuned Gentoo machine run circles around it? I’ve come to equate “simple” with “mediocre,” but Ubuntu’s the first thing that’s made me reconsider. (Well, actually, Apple too, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Blog Work

I wanted to mention a few things I was thinking of / plan to do on the blogs, to invite comments / suggestions.

  • The /main interface…
    • Should be the main page. I’m hoping this will be easy to accomplish. (WP makes heavy use of mod_rewrite, something I haven’t used before.)
    • Should truncate posts at some reasonable length.
    • Should show the blog something was posted to, not the author of the blog.
      • This is more of a pedantic thing, but it’s correct.
      • I have this and /meta, a blog about the blog. Both show up as “n1zyy”
  • The timezone seems seriously screwed up?
  • Some of the templates need work
    • A few (nonzero, featured on Andrew’s site, in particular) have all sorts of random crap in them, such as ads / strangers’ Flickr galleries. These need to be removed.
  • home.php doesn’t exist, which results in errors beings spewed everywhere
    • I wonder if I can just touch it.
  • I really, really need some caching going on here
  • Should I import all the old posts?
    • Part of the problem is that there are lots of lingering links to exact pages. WP uses a new URL format, so even if I import everything, old links will be broken.
      • This would help spur people to remove ancient links?
    • I haven’t really had anyone ask. I don’t want to go importing someone else’s old content to my website if that person doesn’t want me to.
    • Many of the people haven’t yet indicated any interest in renewed activity here.
  • I want to play a bit with the concept of shared categories; e.g., we could have a “Computers” category at, say, /computers, where posts by any of us with the the category of “Computers” would show up.
    • This would be somewhat of a pain, as each of us has our own list of categories.
      • Coding around it is entirely possible, but would require multiple levels of queries… Which is fine if people are interested, which is what I’m wondering

    Oh, and one more–doing ordered lists in the “Visual” composer is really screwed up. I keep having to fix it in the Code view. But that’s one for the WP devs, not me.

    Horror Scopes

    I believe that horoscopes are pure baloney. But I like to read mine from time to time, sort of like how I play the lottery and pick up heads-up pennies: better safe than sorry? But really, the reason is more that it ‘feels good.’ Even though I know that it’s a work of fiction, it’s reassuring to read something suggesting that I’m going to have a good week or whatnot.

    So I was playing around with the ‘widgets’ on iGoogle, and added a horoscope one. The past three days, it’s basically suggested that I’ll be lost in introspection, not my usual self, and that my life will be very confusing right now. As I start to think about what I’m going to do after college, this is alarmingly bleak.

    I think horoscopes should be like fortune cookies: optimistic little sayings that brighten your day and make you feel good, even if no one thinks it’s worth a hoot. But when I turn to fiction to brighten my day, and it instead suggests I’m going to be miserable for a while, it’s not quite what I wanted.

    I tried removing that horoscope and adding a different horoscope widget that drew its data from a different source. That one tells me that major events are going on behind the scenes in my life, and that, when they come to the surface, I should count on those I trust most to help me deal with them. Which is perhaps even more bleak than suggesting that I’ll be depressed the next few days.

    Really, who writes these things? Do they stand to profit from the sale of antidepressants?

    The Nokia 770

    Andrew posted about the Nokia 770 the other day.

    By chance,  I stumbled across Maemo-apps today, and am suddenly even more impressed. It doesn’t do a lot my phone doesn’t, but it does have WiFi and what seems to be an awesome LCD. And it includes a PDF viewer. It might be superb for reading eBooks. Or playing Sudoko. Or diagnosing my car. (Does “being eaten by chipmunks” have an OBD-II code?)

    Talk me out of it!

    Family Values

    I’ve been reading all I could about all the Presidential candidates, and am left with a question. What does “Family Values” mean in the context of politics? The term alone is kind of vague, but in the context of politics, it makes even less sense, since they can’t possibly legislate much of what ‘family values’ means to me.

    What does it mean, specifically?


    I use “iGoogle” as my homepage. (google.com/ig). You can add widgets for all sorts of stuff. I fire up my browser and can see my most recent GMail messages, the weather, news headlines, Dictionary.com’s word of the day, quotes for some stocks I watch, etc.

    Now, you can have custom skins for it, too. Although I was a little unnerved giving a non-Google module access, it works great and looks great. If you’re using iGoogle, you should take a look. (And if you’re not using iGoogle, you should be.)


    So it’s no secret that I was obsessed with the iPhone from the minute I saw it in the keynote. Not like, “That’s kinda cool, if I had money to burn I might buy one” obsessed, but like, “I’ll pay the $600, pay the early termination fee with Verizon, and sign up for a 2-year contract with no credit history [read: get raped, from what I’ve heard] the day it comes out” obsessed. Over time it faded, and I was won over the by “Wait a few months and see how it goes over” theory.

    Today, my mom and I were coming home from the Cape and stopped by the South Shore Mall. After buying a few things, I persuaded her that we should take a couple minutes to drop by the Apple store there.

    After about 30 seconds playing with the models in the store, she and I were both ready to buy them. For one thing, they’re way smaller than they look. At one point I pulled out my Treo, and realized that it was bigger than the iPhone. And heavier. I’d always thought that it was impractically large. And some of the photos make it look that way. But don’t knock it on size until you see it in person.

    You see all the features in the commercials, and it’s really impressive. But play with it for a minute and you’ll be floored. From pictures, the keyboard must be pretty hard to use. I pulled up Safari and typed in “blogs.n1zyy.com/main” which is probably not the easiest thing to type. I screwed up and typed “/maim” (which is somewhat of an awesome typo), but otherwise, typing on it was far easier than I’d have thought.

    The blogs loaded in a really small size. I turned it sideways, and so did the blogs. I hit some random button and bookmarked the blogs. (Woot!) Much unlike the fake browser on the Treo, it was the real deal. About this time, my mom was watching a hilarious video on YouTube on ‘her’ iPhone. I could hear it fine, and the store was really loud. I then noticed a new comment on one of my posts, so I went to that, and wanted to scroll down. I couldn’t find the scroll bar, and was confused for a second. But then I remembered, and dragged my finger across the screen.

    From the commercials, I always worried you’d scroll past where you were trying to go, since it ‘glides’ a bit after you stop. That’s not the case at all. It’s incredibly intuitive, and works incredibly well.

    I went to configure a GMail account, but realized that I really didn’t want my login details on a phone in a public place where 200 people would probably play with it that day. But I bet it would be easier than setting it up on my Treo. I’m still trying to figure that out. It barfs up an error along the lines of “Relaying denied,” but with lots of gibberish included. I think I just need to use Verizon’s SMTP server, but I can’t find the details anywhere. I wonder if the iPhone is that complicated. Something tells me it’s not.

    Seriously, though, the iPhone is like Obama. (Another analogy Mr. T might not like?) It seems really neat. But when you see it in person, it far exceeds your (lofty) expectations.

    Disk Space

    Today I fired up Photoshop, and it barfed up an error about insufficient scratch space and closed. “That’s odd,” I though, having had a couple gig free the other day. I checked, and was at about 400 MB of free space.

    About two minutes later, I was reminded of two things:

    • CCleaner is an absolute must-have for any Windows user.
    • Having 2GB of RAM results in really, really big core dumps when you bluescreen.

    CCleaner fixed the problem in literally seconds, and I’m back up and running with a few gig of free space. Although I think I’ll still get a new hard drive and plunk Ubuntu Studio onto it, too. With Sunbird. And some nice themes. And Beryl/Compiz. And maybe Crossover, although it looks like Office 2007 doesn’t work in it.


    I guess I’m supporting Obama. He was pretty high up on my list, but I hadn’t necessarily made up my mind yet. But between marching in the parade with his campaign and attending a session with him today, I guess the choice is made. But boy, it’s the right one.

    I didn’t ask any questions, but he answered some of mine anyway. He wants, for example, to get out of Iraq. He’s not a pacifist: he suggests that we should have some troops in places where the Taliban is. I went in with my big worry being that he really doesn’t have the experience to lead the country. I left convinced, beyond any doubt, that he’s the right man for the job. You have to hear him speak: in addition to concluding that he’s the right man person (wouldn’t want to exclude Hillary) for the job, I left today with a sense of hope. It’s really hard to describe. You’ve just got to hear him.

    We ended up in a nearly-perfect spot for photos. (For a little bit I was literally rubbing elbows with a newspaper photographer. It was neat to see how he worked; two cameras with different lenses [one is one of the newer Canon DSLRs with the huge screens]. The cameras have a nice high frame rate, so he was snapping several photos a second. At one point, he wanted some photos from above, so he just held the camera above his head, held down the shutter, and moved it around. In a few seconds’ time, he probably ended up with about 30 pictures, at least one of which, by sheer chance, had to have been good.)

    Anyway! I’ve put many of them up on Flickr, but I’ll go over some highlights here.

    To start with, on the way in, we drove by WMUR’s studios. They need to send a gardener up onto their roof. Is that thing an antenna overgrown with vines?


    We also passed this creepy building:
    Spooky Building

    When he was first walking out, everyone was clamoring for a view, and all the photographers, casual or pro, were desperate to get a shot. I snagged this one, and was pretty proud of myself:

    Obama in Crowd

    After everyone took their seats, though, I think we all realized that everyone could see fine. We were standing right behind the last seats, so I had a great view:

    The Beginning

    The crowd was much bigger than that photo suggests. Here’s a better one:


    He’s so happy! I think that’s one of the things that people like about him so much, even if no one mentions it. While other politicians talk about how we’re all going to die in the upcoming terrorist attacks, Obama, as one of the parade chants went, spreads hope and cheer:

    Speaking with a Grin

    He had several security people sitting in the front row. I wonder who they were with. Are they a private firm? Secret Service? State Police?


    He took a lot of time—probably at least half the total time—for questions. One guy didn’t really ask anything, as much as mention that America shouldn’t be about dynasties, and talked about the Bush dynasty and the threat of a Clinton dynasty. The guy then sang a song, which was actually really good, and got a great response from the crowd. And Obama:


    The questions were good. One woman, probably in her mid 20s, talked about how she’d been forced into bankruptcy after a slew of medical bills for surgery. And Senator Obama listened to her, and seemed to even care, something that truly seems unusual in politicians.


    This isn’t that great a photo, but here’s another significant question-asker:


    He introduced himself as a Vietnam vet, which drew applause. He then explained all the trouble he’s had with health care and hospital bills; I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think it’s fair to say that he felt that the nation he’d defended didn’t really care about him anymore. Senator Obama mentioned that he was troubled because he was hearing that throughout the country.