Wow – It’s The Installer That’s Holding It Back

Ok – don’t get me wrong I still like Debian – I just do almost everything in Ubuntu. This statement is so classic I had to blog about it.

Linux.com | New installer gives Debian Etch an edge

f it’s true that Ubuntu is a Swahili word meaning “user too dumb to install Debian,” then I have to wonder if I’ll still be running Ubuntu when Etch gets released, because even I can install Debian now. If installing Debian has intimidated you in the past, keep an eye on Etch and its installer as they get nearer to launch time. They won’t intimidate you.

Apparently – the install is what is holding Debian back. That’s it. I mean now that they have a GUI installer – you should throw away Ubuntu and go back to Debian. I thought that wrong headed view of the world went out with a single RedHat distribution.

The reality is that it is not the installer that makes or breaks Linux. Seriously! I spend a half an hour yesterday helping a co-worker get his wifi card (Man I hate broadcom) working under Dapper. He had tried and tried and made no headway.

This is a classic Linux problem for new users.

You have some hardware and it doesn’t work. You don’t know why it doesn’t work. You don’t know how to make it work – just that it doesn’t work. Guess what – that sucks! You add on another couple of problems where you expect it to do something that is easy under Windows and eventually they give up.

So I’m excited that Ubuntu has lit enough of a fire under Debian to make a release in the sub two year release cycle. That’s good for everyone because it means that the foundation that Ubuntu is built on is still healthy and thriving. But – you are missing the entire point of Ubuntu if you think that the installer is the only difference between Debian and Ubuntu.

Web 2.0 Fall Out

Looks like Kiko failed (It was one of a dozen online calendars). This is really most interesting because it is the first time the “Web 2.0″ community has to deal with a company flaming out.

I already liked the stuff from Feld Web 2.0: The First 25,000 Users Are Irrelevant

It talks about how basically there are a bunch of highly connected users out there that will try anything – but they don’t really represent anything other than the people who are on the cutting edge. To be honest, it all sounds like this generation of entrepreneurs – fell for the “New Economy” stuff all over again and never bothered to read Crossing The Chasm

On the up side, below is lessons to learn from Kiko’s failure that comes from someone actually related to it.

Overall – I would say these things are all going to sound like common sense but I agree with them very strongly. The only sad thing to me (and this is probably another part of the reason they failed) is none of the lessons talk about listening to your customer, understanding what they really want, or making sure your product matters to them…..
jkanstyle » Actual lessons from Kiko

[IP] On the implausibility of the explosives plot.

An interesting comment from on the plot from a computer security geek who is now studying chemistry:

On the implausibility of the explosives plot.

Anyway, from all of this, I conclude that either

1) The terrorists had a brilliant idea for how to combine oxidizer and
a ketone or ether to make some sort of nasty organic peroxide
explosive in situ that has escaped me so far. Perhaps that’s true
— I’m not omniscient and I have to confess that I’ve never tried
making the stuff at all, let alone in an airplane bathroom.
2) The terrorists were smuggling on board pre-made organic peroxide
explosives. Clearly, this is not a new threat at all — organic
peroxide explosives have been used by terrorists for decades
now. Smuggling them in a bottle is not an interesting new threat
either — clearly if you can smuggle cocaine in a bottle you can
smuggle acetone peroxide. I would hope we had means of looking for
that already, though, see below for a comment on that.
3) The terrorists were phenomenally ill informed, or hadn’t actually
tried any of this out yet — perhaps what we are told was a
“sophisticated plot” was a bunch of not very sophisticated people
who had not gotten very far in testing their ideas out, or perhaps
they were really really dumb and hadn’t tried even a small scale
experiment before going forward.

Best Phising Ever!

Got this today from “Customer Care” @ Amazon

Dear Customer,

Thank you for shopping at our shop !
This e-mail is to inform you that your order has been shipped out.
The following information is for your reference (see details in the attachment):
* Order No.: Z3566043
* Order Date: 08/13/2006
SUBTOTAL : $1,769.99
SALESTAX : $0.00
SHIPPING : $16.81
TOTAL : $1,786.80
* Ship Via: FDX Overnight Delivery

[Ship Date :] 08/14/2006 [Tracking No:] 708745655472
Please note that if your order includes more than one package, the
packages may not be delivered at the same time due to the shipping carrier’s
schedule and the delivery method, and this is out of our control.
In addition, backordered items will be shipped separately.
You may check the status of your package’s progress at our website.
Simply click on “Customer Service”, then log into the “Member Center”.
Customers who leave comments for us at either ResellerRatings.com or
Pricegrabber will be eligible to receive a flash drive or other
cool prize! FOUR drawings will take place every month — one drawing
from each review site on the 1st and the 15th of every calendar month.
Thank you for shopping with us!
15% restocking fee applies to all refunds. All products must be
returned in like-new condition, including original packaging and
all documentation and accessories. Charges will be applied for all
missing accessories or parts.
Our shop will not accept items that have been physically damaged or
misused. Return periods for different product categories range from
zero to 30 days.

Yup – the attachment probably has some trojan/virus/malware. The awesome thing is that it actually took me a minute to realize what I was looking at…


I’ve been watching this project for a while (I’m looking for a nice replacement for RT (Which is cool but in perl )

Good news for those of you going to BarCamp Texas It looks like you may get to see a real demo

Open source trouble ticket tracking: SimpleTicket

Alex’s goal is to present the new version of SimpleTicket at Barcamp Texas (being held in Austin in two weeks). So the SVN is the old code (it has been disabled, please don’t download it) and the demo has been removed. Once the new code is released we will post it to the SVN and turn on the demo – we will, of course, write about it here. In the meantime, enjoy the last days of summer…

I’ll be at BarCamp – it sounds like fun!

Tesly – QA

Here’s a Rails app (re-written from the PHP) that is focused on managed test cases. It’s software as a service – so it has a pricing model along the lines of Basecamp.


Tesly is a web-based test plan management system that allows you not only to store and track the results your test cases, but also to share the testing responsibility among members of your team. After creating your team, you can assign test cases to be executed by your team-mates, who will receive a notice of the test case assignment via email. Every time a test case is executed, you will immediately get the results of that test run via email. When you come back to the site, you’ll be able to see at a glance the status of your testing, as well as review the history of testing activity.

I haven’t used it yet (Though you can do a single project for free so I may try it).

I point it out because it brings up an interesting point. This is a tool that is focused on a real QA practice of designing tests cases and then having someone verify that they actually work. On the last big project I worked on, we did all of that sort of stuff via selenium. (Which worked out well) and had the added bonus of being automagical!

I’m still researching ways to make the apps I write more reliable and better tested. Maybe I’ll mix this into the next one I work on. I guess I’m still trying to determine if this kind of tool fits into a small team app with a heck of a lot of automated testing – or if it is better suited to a traditional software dev team that has people split up by specific roles.

WebSVN + AuthzSVNAccess

I’ve been playing with Web SVN (websvn.tigris.org)

Everything was going great until I started adding per directory permissions on my repository.

When I started surfing via WebSVN I realized it was completely ignoring the permission structure I setup. Turns out you have to change a couple of things.
Let’s say this is your svn setup in apache

DAV svn
SVNPath /svn/
AuthzSVNAccessFile /etc/subversion/svnaccess
AuthType Basic
AuthName "Subversion Repository"
AuthUserFile /etc/subversion/svnusers
Require valid-user

To convert this to a working setup for wsvn

Options MultiViews
DirectoryIndex wsvn.php
SVNParentPath /svn/
AuthType Basic
AuthName "Subversion Repository"
AuthzSVNAccessFile /etc/subversion/svnaccess
AuthUserFile /etc/subversion/svnusers
Require valid-user

The important things to note are the addtion os the Options/Directory Index (This turns on wsvn) , and the addition of the SVNParentPaty. The removal of the DAV directive is also important. Those changes basically allow WebSVN to talk through the subversion system and make it respect your user access restrictions.

The joys of system administration :P

Don’t Let Your Smoke Detector Catch On Fire

Ok this is a very strange project where a guy tears a web cam apart and turns into a true source of random numbers. That’s not all that interesting to me – what is interesting is that he is using a radioactive source as the source of randomness

Inventgeek.com – Alpha Radiation Visualizer – Overview

where does the radiation source come from:

The Radiation Source:
So where does your somewhat normal run of the mill geek go to pick up there normal every day alpha radiation source? Well

The Home Depot, of course! Smoke detectors for some time have had a radioactive source in them. Traditionally they use about 0.2 milligrams of Americium 241. Americium 241 is a synthetic element, and a strong alpha radiation source. Perfect for our application at hand as it is “relatively” safe to handle by a novice. But as it is a radioactive source, and does emit a small amount of gamma radiation it should be handled with care and only by someone educated in handling such materials.
Smoke detector: $14.00

From Slashdot Comment:

A few things of note about dealing with smoke detector sources.

First, removing the source from a smoke detector is illegal in the US. I’m not aware of anyone being put in jail for doing it, but with the state of affairs currently I would not go posting the fact that you did it all over the internet.

Second, those sources can be very dangerous if mishandled. The source is coated in a THIN layer of gold and/or silver.. only a few atoms thick. If you touch it with anything you will break the seal and contaminate the object. If you then happen to touch it, you have a good chance of ingesting or inhaling it. This is bad. Am-231 is what is called a bone-seeker. It will be used in new bone growth and eventually kill you by causing bone tumors and other cancers.

Now with a little care you can be pretty safe, but the article in question should have been a little more explict about the dangers involved here.
[ Reply to This

Ok – Am I the only person that didn’t know some smoke detectors contain radioactive material? Good to know that in the event of an actual fire you could get killed later by your own smoke detector!

Whose Distributed VCS Is The Most Distributed? – The Changelog

For those of you who don’t do dev work – nothing to see here :)

For those of you still on CVS – this solves a completely different problem.

Otherwise – this is an interesting update on the world of Distributed Source Code Control.

I use Subverion as my primary SCM. I’ve used SVK some (and I actually liked it except for some tool issues and the lack of support for externals)

I’m not a kernel developer but I do spend a lot of time on planes so it is nice to be able to commit on the go. I’ve stuck with Subversion mostly because it solved all of my CVS problems, and it has the best tool support for all three platforms (Windows,Linux, & Mac OS X) that I interact with. TortoiseSVN rocks for Windows – I find myself often wishing I had the same tool for Gnome. Plus thanks to the easy integration with SVK you can go distributed or not – which means with SVN you can do the normal thing for most people and the advanced users can switch into SVK mode when they want.

It’s a bummer SVK got left out of his article – but at least it got mentioned in the comments.

Whose Distributed VCS Is The Most Distributed? – The Changelog

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