August 2010 Archives

The white drug

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We just had a great weekend over dosing on fresh white snow. We'd booked 3 nights at hotham, Phill, Meg, Andrea and I. Except Phill organized a surprise for me. When we meet up Meg wasn't there, it was Sean. After getting over the surprise the frdt order of business was to get out on the snow. There had been fresh snow the night before, and during that Friday, so it rocked. On Saturday we went out again. It rocked as well. And Sunday rocked. So did Monday. Andrea took in a lesson, and has really kept forward in her sking. Phill was an absolute trooper. He was hard pressed keeping up with Sean and I (who have both had more board time over the last two years), but he didn't have a word of complaint. It was great seeing Sean again. He's such a nice bloke, with a devilish sense of humour. He helped me to remenber how to play 500, and taught me Peruso, a dice game.

Flight movies to/from NY

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On the way home from New York I watched 'Iron Man 2', 'Kickass', ''Chloe', 'She's out of my league' and 'Greenzone' On my way over I saw 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'How to Train Your Dragon'. I think there was another movie as well, but I can't remember what it was. Next time I'm taking a long flight I want noise cancelling headphones. I had to have the volume up full to hear the dialog in most of the films, and then had to turn it down every few minutes for music and sound effects.

debconf10 talks from day1

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Supporting Debian machines for friends and family

Francois Marier talked about some things he'd done to setup some computing for his Dad. Francois lives in New Zealand, and his Dad lives in Canada, so one of Francois main goals was to minimize support issues. He was also keen to provide a enjoyable computing experience, so his Dad has a good experience of free software.
Even though he was using desktop machines, he recommends raid1, as he had a total of 4 drives fail. He also recommends a UPS. He does the normal sysadmin things of apticron and unattended-upgrades, deborphan and debfoster, logcheck. He uses sysstat to write a log of system statistics (though I'd prefer munin for something graphical). Also uses mcelog, smartmontools. He taught his Dad to write down the exact time that a problem occurs.

He mentioned molly-guard (asks you to confirm name of machine when you go to reboot), safe-rm (has a blacklist of paths to refuse to delete) and etckeeper.

When it comes to security he was looking for minimal effort solutions that give only a modest security increase. So he's happy using debsums, fcheck, chkrootkit, checksecurity, rkhunter and tiger. He uses fwknop for remote access. fwknop sniffs for a UDP packet on a particular port, and checks it's signature. If the checks pass it opens the firewall to that IP address for 30 seconds. So the firewall he uses is really simple, it blocks everything coming in. The sniffing software always sniffs before the firewall.

For backups he sends configfiles to and S3 amazon instance using duplicity (which uses encryption). He also backups mythtv dump, list of packages, emails, bookmarks and his dads ~/documents/safe. He requires his Dad to dump to CD anything else.

Pedagogical Freedom

This was a panel discussion about educational issues. Most of it didn't interest me hugely. Ahamed Shameem mentioned Fedena, a open source school management system (built with Ruby on Rails). Looks like it could have been a competitor to Synergetic at Trinity, but obviously that is a battle that will be very hard to fight just now.

Project Caua

Jon Hall (alias maddog) spoke about Project Caua. This is a project to put a whole bunch of low cost devices and servers into Brazillian cities to help low incoming people get digitally connected. They are including training for locals to become system administrators, both the technical skills necessary, and the business skills needed to run a business supporting a building full of these low cost devices. They are organising for these sysadmins to have access to loans, so that there will be no charity involved, it will be an economically sustainable initiative. Their goals are to create millions of private sector jobs.

I'd heard of maddog over the years, and it was great to see him speak. He's a good speaker. His goals are ambitious, but they don't sound crazy.

How Government Can Foster Freedom in Technology

This talk was given by a local politician. It was interesting hearing of her experiences, and the things she has worked on. I didn't make any notes during the talk (battery was running flat). She did highlight (and someone in the audience emphasized) how useful it is when people turn up to express their opinion, as it really makes it easier for her to state her case to other people. This will be true for back at home as well.

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I decided to try for front row lottery tickets to wicked (a chance at $27 USD is hard to pass). Except they were only doing a mattinee. So I thought instead of wasting the trip downtime I'd go back to a sports store I'd found with some cheap MTB shoes. Except I couldn't remember the address, and got it wrong by about 20 blocks. So I walked, and walked. And walked. Walked some more. Suddenly I'd stumbled into Grand Central Station. I wish I'd had my camera, it was amazing. So then I walked some more. And some more. Found the store, bought the shoes ($45 AUD, bargin!) and caught the subway back. Seeing Grand Central made it worth it, but getting the shoes didn't hurt.

Visiting the UN

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I previously mentioned going to the UN buildings. It was really interesting going there, but I don't recommend going on the weekend. They seem to have a reduced staff, so there are no guided tours, only audio tours, and the information desk didn't seem to be staffed.

They had some displayers in the foyer including
  • the Haitian earthquake disaster and recovery effort
  • how climate change is affecting diverse communities
  • young peoples photographic display

The photos in the young peoples display were often extraordinarily good. They were asking people to reflect on their gender, and how it shapes them and hinders them.

New York DebConf 2010 Trip day two

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  • Slept in
  • left America
  • saw HSM star
It turns out that when you enter the UN premises in New York you are technically leaving America. I guess it is like political embassies being considered sovereign territory of the remote country. They even have their own post office, so I sent some postcards from outside of America.

I went and saw my first broadway musical tonight. 'In the Heights' staring Corbin Blei in the lead role. You might remember Corbin from such shows as 'High School Musical', 'High School Musical 2' and ...etc. It was a really great show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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