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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Tue, 08 Nov 2011

Tapping deeper into the OpenShot video editor

Here's a video I put together today with OpenShot 1.4.0 in Debian Squeeze (I've been using the OpenShot .deb package from the OpenShot Launchpad page to make sure I had the latest version):

It's of the new Muse School in Calabasas that Suzy Amis Cameron and husband James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) created, and it contains a mix of video, audio and still images shot by Los Angeles Daily News staff photographer Dean Musgrove.

Once he brought me the raw footage and I saw that it featured children from the school singing a song, I knew I wanted to mix stills and video over the audio track.

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Wed, 02 Nov 2011

Could I believe in Evolution? I go deeper into GNOME

As I said in a recent entry, I don't consider myself a "GNOME user," though I find myself using GNOME all the time.

I guess that makes me ... a GNOME user. Since I run Debian Squeeze, that means the now-all-but-dead GNOME 2. Version 2.30.2, to be exact.

Though I've flirted with console e-mail in the form of Mutt and Pine, I came to the realization long ago that GUI mail clients are the thing for me. I've used Claws Mail, and I pretty much centered my mail-client universe on Thunderbird, running it on every platform I can.

But I have kept a fully configured Evolution mail client at the ready on my Debian laptop.

And lately I've been using it -- with IMAP so I can go back to Thunderbird at any time.

You know what? Evolution is pretty good. It's calendar integrates with Google Calendar. (And it that calendar is integrated into the app, unlike the plugin-based Sunbird/Lightning/Iceowl plugin that Thunderbird/Icedove uses and which doesn't work at all in the Debian Backports/Debian Mozilla APT Archive version of Icedove).

It looks great. I can actually understand how to configure it.

But as much as I'm liking this mail client, knowing that my future may very well be outside of GNOME, I'm keeping Thunderbird on the front-burner right next to Evolution.

Fri, 28 Oct 2011

Thinking out of the server box: HP ProLiant MicroServer

By way of Planet Debian, I found Vincent Sanders' article on the HP ProLiant MicroServer he bought for use at home instead of a dedicated NAS appliance.

This is by no means a blade server. It's a squat little box. And the HP ProLiant MicroServer line starts at .

Here are general specs from HP:

What's new

  • Faster processor -- AMD Turion II Neo 1.5GHz
  • Choice of preinstalled OS's includes Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials


Simple to Own and Easy to Use

  • Server performance but at a PC price
  • Designed to make adding drives or peripherals a minimal effort
  • At a 22 dBA noise level, it is quiet for ergonomic working environment
  • Space-saving; ideal for the small office

Proven HP Dependability and Support

  • HP has built a reputation of dependability by conducting some of the most rigorous and thorough testing in the industry
  • System testing and process control ensures only the most dependable products for the customers
  • Worldwide network of HP trained service

Reliability and Expandability

  • Error checking and correction (ECC) memory minimizes the likelihood of memory corruption
  • RAID 0, 1 prevents data loss and ensures around the clock reliability
  • Up to four LFF SATA pluggable hard disks and up to 8 GB of RAM

That's pretty interesting. It's small, all right. The ECC memory is very server-ish. And not everybody wants or has a rack set up to stuff a server into. This can sit on a table or shelf somewhere.

While there is a model, the best deal seems to be the version with double the RAM (2 GB). The system ships with a smallish 250 GB drive, but the whole point is that you can buy drives for the four bays and just plug 'em in.

Vincent bought his HP box to run Debian, which is what I'd be doing. The HP PDF lists the following as "supported" OSes:

  • Microsoft Windows 2008 Standard Edition R2
  • Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)

It doesn't say which versions of RHEL will run, but I imagine that 5.x and 6.x are good to go. And if it runs Debian Squeeze, it will probably run a current Ubuntu release as well.

Looking back at Vincent's original article, he has what looks to me like a somewhat complicated RAID setup for his four 2 TB drives, with 1 GB of ext2 in RAID 1 across four drives for /boot, ext3 with LVM in RAID 5 for the rest of the data, plus a small partition at the beginning for GRUB. I'm a little bit hazy on exactly how one does this.

He cites reports of reliability problems in ext4 as a reason for choosing ext3 for the big RAID partition. I'm running ext3 with LVM in my Debian Squeeze laptop, and it has been 100 percent solid.

I really need to read up on RAID and configuring Linux servers with RAID and LVM ...

Wed, 26 Oct 2011

I'm pushing Debian Squeeze and GNOME 2 as hard as I can

I never really considered myself a GNOME user. Though I am. I've used Xfce, Fluxbox, Fvwm2, LXDE, even JWM (Joe's Window Manager) in Puppy and FLTK in TinyCore. But most of the time I stick with the default desktop environment offered by a given distribution.

And more often than not, that's GNOME 2. And I've been using Debian Squeeze with GNOME 2 since November 2010 -- almost a year now -- and using it for more of my work than ever.

I don't consider myself a "power user," but I am pushing this desktop environment and this distribution pretty hard. I've got a lot of software installed -- most from the Debian repositories, some from other repos and a few packages from third parties (usually the upstream developers themselves). I run Dropbox. I create, edit and mix audio, I edit video. I crunch hundreds of images. Code web pages. Write. Browse the web with Iceweasel and Google Chrome. Watch TV shows from Hulu and various other sites, including CBS.com.

I can suspend/resume without rebooting for days at a time. That's probably the best thing about this particular instance of Linux and my particular hardware (the not-terribly impressive Lenovo G555). I've never had this level of functionality before in Linux or BSD.

NetworkManager has been great. I've used it to connect to wired, WiFi and 3G networks, all seamlessly. My old-school ext3 filesystems managed under encrypted LVM have run perfectly the whole time. I do backups via rsync.

It all just works. It's Debian Stable with the now old and abandoned GNOME 2.

What will happen to Debian's default desktop environment by the time the current Testing distribution, Wheezy, itself becomes Stable sometime in early 2013? Will GNOME 3 have settled down by then, or will Debian turn to another DE, maybe Xfce, for its main desktop? I'll worry about it then. If this hardware holds out, it'll probably do so with Debian Squeeze and the 2.6.37 kernel that handles this hardware perfectly.

GNOME's supposed to be slow. I've really never found that to be true -- and certainly not on this laptop made in March 2010.

It's not "pure" Squeeze. I have Debian Backports, the Mozilla Debian APT archive, Liquorix (and now newer kernels from Backports if I want them), Debian Multimedia, plus repositories for Google Chrome and Dropbox. But the core is a distribution that "froze" some time in mid-2010 and released in February 2011. It keeps on working, and so do I. Can't argue with that.

Mon, 24 Oct 2011

So many social networks, so little (fill in the blank)

Should I (and should you) have a presence on every damn social network favored by both geeks and civilians?

When a particular uber-geek (I'm thinking about you, @fabsh) leaves one social network (Identi.ca) for another (Google+), do we follow suit? Or just follow. Or not?

I've heard a lot of "well-followed" geek-types comment on how much more quickly they've been "circled" by followers in Google Plus in contrast to their Twitter following and are using the rapid uptake of their Google+ musings as a sign to put more emphasis into the new social network while doing much less with the old (Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook).

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I add the Widgets Plus Google+ widget to this site

I already have the Widgets Plus Google-Plus (aka Google+) widget on my official Los Angeles Daily News-sponsored, Movable Type-running blog, and today I added it to this blog, which runs under Ode.

I had to tweak more than a couple of parameters to fit the widget in the 178px space in Click, but for the 235px space at

Posted: Oct 24, 2011 2:51pm UTC

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Category: /google/plus/

Breadcrumb trail to post: home > google > plus

Moving out of Flatpress and into Ode

I’m in the process of moving the entries from this blog into my new site at http://stevenrosenberg.net/blog. Eventually I hope to have the Debian posts on that blog, running under the Ode platform, appearing with their own theme, something (i.e. different themes for different parts of the same site) that is very possible to do in Ode, a system developed by Rob Reed to use flat files like FlatPress, but in a less-WordPress-ish and more Blosxom-y way.

Today I turned off comments for all of these FlatPress blog entries because they have been attracting a significant amount of spam.

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Fri, 21 Oct 2011

ZDNet's Linux vs. Windows server smackdown

ZDNet writer David Gerwitz is so fed up with the way his co-located Linux server responded to an upgrade (by not running) that he's made a huge deal out of giving up Linux for Windows. On a server.

Fellow ZDNet writer and Linux partisan Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols (aka SJVN) wonders what all the shouting is about.

In case you hadn't guessed, I'm with SJVN on this one. Sure I've bricked a few Linux and BSD installations in my time, but when it comes to production systems, it's extremely easy to stay on the straight and narrow with Linux and BSD. Upgrades can be tricky, but that's true for Windows, too. I'm taking upgrades from one release to another.

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Canonical upping desktop support for its next Ubuntu LTS to 5 years

Ever since Ubuntu shipped its first long-term-support release, the 6.06 Dapper Drake (one of my all-time favorites by the way), the distro's LTS editions have enjoyed three years of support on the desktop and five years on the server.

Now Canonical is extending desktop support for the upcoming 12.04 LTS (to be named Precise Pangolin) to a full five years on both the desktop and server, making the release that much more compelling for enterprise users and others (like myself) who might not necessarily stick with the release for the full five years but want the option of doing so.

It makes the quality and stability of this next release that much more important, as SABDFL Mark Shuttleworth enumerated in a blog post yesterday.

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Tue, 18 Oct 2011

Get a Google+ widget for your website

I've seen these Google+ widgets popping up all over. Here's where you can get one.