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Monthly Archives: June 2009

This week was atypical of summer so far, as I had steady work all week. I’m not complaining by any stretch, as it’ll help me pay rent and all, but it was still unusually hectic.I was working at my usual school-year job at a college help desk, and I had all manner of calls. I felt like there were unusually more email client-related calls, with people misconfiguring their authenticated SMTP and all that. Between those calls, I had a few walk-ins with the hard drive “click of death”. To cap it all off, I had TWO calls about people using dial-up to access the campus network.

Say again, people still have dial-up? In 2009? Really? Stand by…

Ah, the joys of user-end tech support. To be honest, I much prefer working with people, rather than being hunched over a computer all day with no human interaction at all. I’ve noticed on those days when I’m just staring into a solitary screen, at the end of the day I just want to go home and collapse. I guess I’m a people-person after all, even if I am a bit socially awkward.

Linux-wise, I made the jump and upgraded to Linux Mint 7! (sort of) As it always seems to be, the story of my latest Linux feat is not without excitement, frustration, the potential for disaster, and a happy ending. Sort of like a a geeky plotless romance movie, minus the actual romance. Anyway, after making a Clonezilla image of all my hard drive partitions (Windoze XP, swap, Linux Mint 6, space for testing distros, /home, Windoze Recovery), I tried the graphical update-in-place option outlined by Clement Lefebvre in the Linux Mint Blog (1). It was merrily rolling along…until the upgrader locked up after a package didn’t install correctly. I tried everything I could think of to get the installer going again, but to no avail.

In that same aforementioned blog post, Clem strongly advocates for a fresh install of Mint (or any distro) instead of upgrading in place. He notes that a fresh install is much less prone to errors and general havoc than upgrading in place. With a deep sigh, I double-checked my backups, and wiped out my Mint 6 partition with my Puppy Linux Live CD. On another machine, I downloaded the Mint 7 ISO and created a UNetbootin usb stick.

The clean install itself was not that difficult, as running the installer from a USB stick, rather than from a Live CD saved a lot of time. It turns out that the read speeds are so much faster from a USB stick, compared to CD media. The install didn’t take more than ten minutes, once it had all my options and preferences.

What took hours was copying back all my data and the countless tweaks to make Mint uniquely my own. There were themes, packages, and config files to install, drivers to upgrade, and tons of data and personal detritus to copy back over to my /home partition. Finally though, when the dust settled and I was done biting my nails over the unstable graphics drivers I had to install (to overcome a Mint 7/Ubuntu 9.04 known issue with my graphics hardware), I am pleased to report that Mint 7 is working extremely well. It is somewhat “snappier” and more responsive than Mint 6, and it has not shown the x.org freezes that were so prevalent in Jaunty bug reports with my model of graphics hardware.

In the more personal realm, I’ve found myself thinking about the idea of intentionality in relationships a lot this week. At one time, I recall my mother telling me “Being there for people doesn’t require effort, you just do it.” At least in my own experience, I believe that successful relationships require constant and very intentional effort and work. This is not to say that maintaining relationships need to be taxing or stressful. It means that it is potentially so easy to not be mindful and caring for other people, that we must be intentional with our efforts to express love. This is very much an idea in concept for me, so to be continued…

Next week, it’s looking pretty quiet. It doesn’t look like either of my jobs have anything for me to do, so I’ll most likely be taking it easy, and maybe heading up to Portland. I get paid on Tuesday, so that’s exciting too.

The collegiate life continues…

Below is a list of the Linux distributions I’ve tried to date, along with my two-or-so-sentence opinion/verdict/conclusion of each.

Verdicts

OpenSUSE: KDE version maddening because it’s KDE, GNOME version: “WTF is the difference between the Control Center and YaST?!?”

Ubuntu 8.04/8.10: Very brown, and why won’t my mp3s play? (This was early in my Linux explorations, and I had yet to understand the virtue of media codec packages)

Kubuntu 8.10: OMG it kernel panicked again (later traced to a bug between the kernel and my Intel wireless card), and where the hell is everything? KDE hating…

Xubuntu: Very clean design, but why won’t you mount my internal NTFS partition?

Arch: The end result may be exactly what you want in your configured system, but why oh why must you go through so much command-line-fu to get there. Glad I went through it, but I still couldn’t get X.org up and running.

Linux Mint 6: I ran into initial kernel panics (because Ubuntu/Kubuntu are upstream from Mint), but replacing gnome-network-manager with wicd seems to be a good workaround for my system. This is my “production” OS (what I rely on for getting actual work done). Very satisfied customer.

Knoppix: Couldn’t even get it to boot from CD. Next.

Puppy Linux: Saved my skin (and my data) on many occasions, I always keep a live CD of Puppy in my backpack.

Damn Small Linux: Seems roughly comparable to Puppy, but I prefer Puppy for its UI.

What’s Next

Foresight Linux 2.1.1 (having difficulty finding a suitable download)

Linux Mint 7 (waiting for a known issue specific to my graphics card to be worked out)

Simply MEPIS (heard about it on Linux Outlaws)

One of the most common computer-related complaints I’ve heard is, “Argh, I get so much spam email!”

If you actually enjoy reading about “How to Win Over nAy Girl”, “My offer of $$100,000,0000” and “give me your bank information”, stop reading now and GET OFF MY LAWN (and my network)! However, if you are annoyed by spam, please read on.

It is important to note that spammers can find your email address through many means. One of the most common sources is websites with which you signed up. There are many legitimate websites which do not sell your personal information, but some other, more nefarious websites make quite a lucrative profit selling their members’ personal information to advertisers and spammers.

Now, I am not suggesting that you stop signing up for websites that you find compelling. Instead, a good strategy is to maintain two (or more) email addresses, one for web signups, and the other for personal contacts, like friends, colleagues, spouses, and extramarital romantic interests (just kidding). It is very easy to set up accounts with internet-based email providers such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail.

The second strategy, more specific to Willamette network account-holders, is to have your WU email forwarded to an off-campus email account, such as Gmail or Yahoo! Mail. The primary benefit is that your incoming email will go through two spam filters: one on the WU servers, and another in your destination email account. An added bonus is that you get to bypass the ugly, antiquated WU webmail user interface. I personally have all my WU email forwarded to my Gmail account, and it catches almost all the incoming spam before it hits my inbox.

Caveat: if you set up email forwarding, all incoming WU email received AFTER you set up email forwarding will be forwarded to your off-campus account. This will NOT forward existing email messages in your WU inbox to your off-campus account.

To do this, go to the WU Internal page (http://www.willamette.edu/internal). In the upper-right corner of the window, click the “doorway” link most appropriate to you (Enrolling Students, Students, Faculty, Staff). In the “WITS EMAIL AND NETWORK SERVICES” column, click the “Email Forwarding Address” link. Enter your WU username and password as prompted, and follow the directions on the page. Once that’s done, open up the off-campus email account you indicated on the form, and you should receive an email message stating that all your WU email will be forwarded to the new account. You’re done! To undo, simply go back to the “Email Forwarding Address” page, select the “deliver to Willamette account” radio button, and press “Submit Mail Forward Request”.

Some email providers let you to have multiple sending addresses/identities all under one account. This allows you to choose which of your email addresses is displayed as the “sender” in emails you send out. This feature varies between providers, so you’ll need to research this one yourself. Your mileage may vary.

This week was an interesting one, as it was my first full week of work at my summer tech job. Monday was a bit torturous, as I spent most of my working day putting out fires on the new website that my workplace is rolling out. It is built on the Joomla! Open-source content management system, which is exciting to see. However, staring into a screen for five hours, with the only human interaction in that time being my boss walking in and telling me to switch gears and work on a different part of the website every twenty minutes got old pretty fast. I’m definitely more in my element at the Help Desk, assisting people with their computer problems (PEBKAC, hehe).

Tuesday was (as far as I remember) a carbon-copy of Monday, except that I showed up to work fifteen minutes earlier. Oooh, amazing. More website development, less human interaction, more boss interruptions.

Wednesday was an adventure, to say the least. While I was working on the website, I decided to pursue a side project and try moving my /home directory to its own partition. There was a very nicely written tutorial on Psychocats that made it look relatively doable. So, during a lull at work, I booted into the Linux Mint 6 live CD I carry around and went through the tutorial. Let’s just say I borked it, on the only machine I had to work on the web dev project. I ended up having to boot into the trusty Puppy Linux CD I carry around, just to recover my critical data before whacking all my Linux partitions and reinstalling. Needless to say, that was incredibly stupid. I won’t be attempting that again, especially during the work day on my mission-critical computer. Also, I have discovered the infinite glory of CloneZilla, one of the fine FOSS alternatives to proprietary disk-cloning software, such as Ghost.

Thursday was better. I didn’t tell my computer to do anything really stupid, and I got to have lunch with a good friend (and my future boss in Res Life). I also got to hang out with a number of my Japanese friends, who I don’t get to see that often, as my job keeps my interaction with the surface-dwellers to a minimum.

Friday (today) was the one day I really felt like I earned my pay. Instead of the web dev stuff I had been plodding away at all week, my boss had me moving boxes upon boxes of stuff from the current IT office to the IT storage room and their new offices on the other side of the building. Apparently the IT department and the accounting department are playing a lame version of Trading Spaces (the cool version is the one in which nobody has to sweat and strain muscles). I was packing, moving, and sorting the infinite detritus of this IT department. It sounds a lot more lamentable than it really was, because I was able to be around more people than I had all week. I do smell pretty rank at the moment, but it was worth it. On top of that, my boss gave me a full-size desk to take home. I’m using it right now, and I must say that I am quite pleased.

I shamelessly ganked the idea for this post from the “Weekly Rewind” series on Dan Lynch’s blog Adventures in Open Source, as well as from the GTD concept of the weekly review, to look back on the week, sum up the salient points, and take note of all the “open loops” of unfinished commitments and projects still on one’s plate.

Now, shower time. Yess.