Happy 21st Birthday, Slackware – and Thanks, Patrick!

Slackware 9621 years ago today, Patrick J. Volkerding announced the 1.00 release of Slackware Linux to the comp.os.linux newsgroup. As Patrick wrote at the time, “This is a complete installation system designed for systems with a 3.5″ boot floppy. It has been tested extensively with a 386/IDE system.” Times, and technology, have changed quite a bit — but Slackware continues to stay true to Patrick’s original vision and provide users with “the most ‘UNIX-like’ Linux distribution out there” with simplicity and stability “while retaining a sense of tradition.”

Slackware had just turned five when I first discovered it and, by extension, Linux. It was the first Linux distribution that I’d ever used and it was a wonderful platform to learn on. Made even better by the fact that Patrick was quick to respond to emails asking for support, and provided gentle guidance to updating XFree86 so that I could actually use X on my blazing fast Pentium 133MHz machine with eight whopping megabytes of RAM.

Slackware wasn’t quite the first Linux distribution, but it outlived its predecessors as well as many Linux distributions that came after. Slackware has not only continued to provide new releases at steady intervals year after year, but it’s done so with a fairly small (but mighty!) core team of developers led by Patrick.

If you’re in the Linux or open source community, you should take a minute today to raise a glass to toast the Slackware distribution. I’ll be hoisting a beer (though a better one than PBR…) to Slackware, and its team. Thanks for introducing me to Linux, for staying true to your vision, and for providing so many users with so much goodness over the years. Here’s to Slackware, Patrick, and all the other folks who’ve made Slackware great over the years – and to many more releases and birthdays to come!

Link

Nice piece on “The Compositional Nature of Vim” over on Ismail Badawi’s blog:

There’s a combinatorial effect here. If I know about o operators, m motions and t text objects, I can do up to o * (m + t) different things. Every new operator I learn lets me do up to m + t new things, and every motion or text object I learn lets me do up to o new things. Once you internalize vim’s language for editing text, then not only does editing text efficiently become easier, but you also start learning at a much faster rate, as every new thing you learn interacts with all the things you already know.

If you’re still learning Vim (and despite using Vim for ~15 years, I count myself in that group), take a few minutes to read (or at least skim) this post.

The Compositional Nature of Vim »

Another 4K Update: Dell P2815Q 28″ Monitor

Some time ago, I bought a Seiki 39″ 4K monitor/TV for use with my Fedora 20 workstation/laptop. While the resolution was great, I just couldn’t get it set up where it wasn’t a pain in the neck. Literally.

But having a taste of the 4K good life, I was unhappy going back to the 2560×1440 resolution of the Cinema Display…

Right now, there’s not a ton of 4K monitors on the market – at least not affordable ones. But I happened to find a Dell P2815Q 28″ monitor at MicroCenter over the weekend, and decided to go ahead and pull the trigger.

Like the Seiki, the refresh rate at the top resolution (3840×2160) is much lower than you’d find with standard monitors. So if you’re looking for a gaming rig, pass this by for now.

But, the Dell has a few advantages beyond being a more manageable size for a desktop:

  • It has DisplayPort / MiniDisplayport inputs. The Seiki only has HDMI.
  • Adjustable height.
  • Rotation – though the video driver for Fedora 20 didn’t seem to like it when I tried to rotate the Dell to a portrait mode. Some more tinkering will ensue there before I figure out where the problem lies.
  • Three USB 3.0 ports (can plug into your desktop’s USB 3.0 slot).
  • Supports DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (i.e., you can plug in a second monitor for two displays). I haven’t tried this, yet.
  • Color seems better than the Seiki, though still a bit washed out. Not a lot, but not as crisp as the Cinema Display.

So far, no problems with the display, and I’m really happy to be back to a 4K desktop.

I’d only recommend getting a 4K display for early adopters, though. I suspect the prices will continue to plunge, while the quality and refresh rate will improve. But if you’re like me and spend way too much time at the computer, it’s worth considering.

Enigmail, and Not Signing by Default

5267337900_1156156de0_qA few weeks ago, I added Enigmail to Thunderbird for signing and encrypting mails. Most of the time, though, I don’t really feel a need to sign or encrypt mails (or have a need to decrypt or check signatures). For most folks, the GPG signature is just more noise — sort of like the footers that say “for the environment, please don’t print this message” or the useless legalese footers about “this email and any attachments to it may be confidential, blah blah blah.”

Not wanting to inflict that on people unnecessarily, I looked high and low in the Enigmail preferences to find a setting to turn signing off unless wanted. No dice. I looked in the general preferences for Thunderbird. Also no dice.

Finally, this morning, I tried googling it (again) and found what I was looking for… it’s in the per-account settings (of course).

Under “OpenPGP Security” un-check the “Sign non-encrypted messages by default” and all’s well. You can still sign when needed (for instance, if you’re sending a message to a project’s announce list about something security related, folks might want a signed message…) but won’t clutter up your emails with the GPG signature otherwise.

(Icon credit to Flick user Live4Soccer(L4S).)

Upstream Podcast: Episode 6 – Interview with Marvin Humphrey at ApacheCon North America

Got a bit behind in editing, but here’s the latest Upstream podcast. This one features Marvin Humphrey of the Apache Software Foundation. Really enjoyed speaking with Marvin (on and off mic) and hope you enjoy listening to the podcast as much as I enjoyed speaking with him!

If you’d like to catch prior episodes, you can find all episodes listed on Red Hat’s community blog, or subscribe to the RSS / iTunes feed for Upstream:

Have thoughts on the podcast? Would love to hear them! Let me know who I should talk to, what kind of topics you’re interested in, and what’s good/bad about the ‘cast. Thanks!

Lo & Behold: It Just Works (with the Right Adapter…)

A while back, I bought a 4K monitor and set it up with a tower workstation because I had no luck getting it going with my main laptop, a ThinkPad T530.

I was not optimistic about the odds of getting the 4K monitor working with this laptop at all, especially not without the proprietary drivers. But, I had noticed some discussion about an “active” Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter working where others hadn’t. I had to pick a few things up at MicroCenter today, and managed to find one such adapter that was about $25. (The rest were about $10.)

Logged out of the desktop, unplugged the Cinema Display, and plugged in the 4K display. And, to borrow a phrase, “it just worked.”

Nice. Very, very nice. The adapter brand is Accell, by the way, if anybody else is looking to get a similar setup going.

Your GNOME Tips, Tricks, and Such: Tell Me Them

GNOME Logo Decided to mix things up a bit and start using GNOME on Fedora 20 as my main desktop, at least until such time I get bored with it, annoyed with it, or something else catches my attention.

Had been using KDE as my desktop, and that was working just fine: I just decided to change things up a bit when I reconfigured my system recently. (Added a second SSD so I’d have room for a CentOS partition.)

First thing I did was install GNOME Tweak Tools, because… no minimize button makes me crazy. Whether it’s “better” to have a minimize button or not, I’ll leave to UX/UI folks to debate. What I know is I’ve been using window managers of some type or another for more than 20 years that have a minimize button, and while this old dog isn’t too old to learn new tricks, I’m choosy about which tricks I’m willing to spend the time learning.

Added Guake because a drop-down terminal is a nice thing to have. Added Pidgin because I prefer that to Empathy.

I will note, I’m using GNOME on my work-issued ThinkPad T530 with a 27″ Cinema Display connected (when I’m home). (Nice of the Lenovo folks to have a Mini DisplayPort connector on these…) If I recall correctly, GNOME got dinged for poor multi-monitor support some releases ago. If that was actually a problem, it seems to be handled by now. Everything is working quite well in that regard.

What GNOME extensions would you recommend? Any tips, tricks, or hidden gems might I find in current GNOME that are worth looking for?

Looking Forward to ApacheCon, CentOS Dojo Denver, and CloudStack Collaboration Conference in April

In just a bit more than a month, the mile-high city is going to play host to a triple-feature of open source IT goodness:

Starting April 7th and running through the 11th, you’ll have a chance to connect with folks developing and deploying some of the most used infrastructure in the world. Apache Web server? Check. Apache Hadoop? Check. Lucene, Solr, Libcloud, Kafka, Cordova…? Check, check… well you get the idea. Also CentOS and Apache CloudStack.

The schedule for each of these events is outstanding. Oh, and I managed to sneak in a few talks as well. I’ll be doing a talk at each:

You really, really don’t want to miss this year’s ApacheCon, and stay for the Dojo and CloudStack Collab because they’re also going to be chock full of goodness. You can register for ApacheCon here, and register for the CentOS Dojo for just $50 through March 20 and add the CCC registration there as well. Or just register for the CentOS Dojo on April 10th separately if you can only make one day.

Have questions about any of the events? Drop me a note by email or hit me up on Twitter, happy to try to help or find the right person.  Hope to see you in Denver!

Why PR Spam Makes Me Crazy…

It’s been nearly two years since I stopped working as press, yet I still get pitches almost daily from “pray and spray” PR folks – almost always about things that I wouldn’t have covered even if I was still doing my old beats.

One of the reasons this makes me crazy is obvious: I don’t need more email to sort through. I get plenty of email to sort through as it is, I don’t need spam from PR folks who can’t be bothered to keep a decent list of press. What makes it worse is that they often will do the “just making sure you saw this” follow-up w/in 24 hours if I just hit delete. (Few things strike me as more entitled than PR folks who think they’re owed a response from a person they’ve never corresponded with before and they haven’t done their homework enough to know that you’re not even in their target demographic.)

Aside from that, though, it makes me crazy because it’s a reminder just how lousy tech press has become in general. There’s no attempt to build relationships with tech press these days for the most part, because there’s damn little real journalism going on. The bulk of stories are reactionary – Acme Corp did Y today, so we’ll put up a 600-word post about it that only skims the surface and never revisit the topic again, unless it’s an outrage post of some sort that has a lifetime of a few days.

It also makes me crazy because people get paid ridiculous amounts of money to… spam journalists. I’ve seen the rates offered by third-party firms that spam me, and they’re ridiculous when you take into account what they actually do. Companies should be paying PR people who have contacts in the industry, who know and understand the products they’re pitching, and know the publications.

If you’re doing tech PR and you can’t name the current masthead of publications that are important to your client you have no business in the industry. If a person has left a publication and you still don’t know about it months later, you have no business being in the industry. Seriously, how can you be responsible for relationships with, say, ReadWriteWeb and not notice that someone’s posting frequency has gone from three times a day to zero for months? You’re clearly not paying attention to what they’re writing about, how can you possibly be effective in pitching them?

Finally, it makes me crazy because one of the reasons the tech press sucks so much these days is there’s damn little money to pay people to do good coverage. And one of the reasons there’s damn little money is because it’s been diverted from advertising to ineffective social media and PR campaigns from over-priced firms that aren’t doing their damn job! So tech companies are basically shooting themselves in the foot, paying huge retainers to PR folks and skimping on supporting the publications that … they’re paying the ineffective PR firms to get coverage in. Then they’re surprised when they don’t seem to be getting good coverage. Sigh.

Brief Review: Seiki 4K 39″ TV/Monitor

Just a bit ago, I blogged about getting a 4K monitor working on Fedora 20. Now that I’ve had a bit of time with the monitor, I wanted to comment on the experience a little.

Reviews on various sites really bagged on this monitor’s color/clarity compared to traditional computer monitors. While I don’t doubt discerning users might find flaws in this monitor, it’s just fine for my use case. That is, I spend the day using IRC, a few terminals, Web browser, PDF reader, mail client, and maybe LibreOffice.

If I’m using any sort of image editing/photo editing software, it’s strictly for cropping and re-sizing. So, honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if things are perfectly color-calibrated or if it’s good for gaming.

Compared to my 27″ Apple Cinema Display, I’d give it a B- or C+ for picture quality. But a small sacrifice of picture quality is well worth the extra desktop space.

Daily Use

The productivity increase I got from the 4K monitor was so great, I finish my work in half the time and have been promoted twice in the last week.

Uh, OK… not really. But we geeks are always chasing that tiny productivity boost, or searching to zap annoyances in our work day – and I’m happy to say there has indeed been a productivity boost and some zapped annoyances.

You can’t really quantify the improvement you get from a new setup like this, but if I had to… I’d say it’s 10%, maybe 15% more productive. I find myself spending less times tabbing through things, I can actually have four to six things open at the same time for a task without any need to tab through windows and find something. Example: Planning the Infrastructure.Next events, I can have a few emails or Web browsers open that have speakers’ abstracts, the Lanyrd page for Infrastructure.Next @ SCALE and Infrastructure.Next @ Ghent, a terminal for using middleman to update Red Hat’s Open Source Community blog, and still keep an eye on IRC/IM.

Ergonomics

The 39″ monitor is the same distance as the 27″ monitor, which admittedly is not the best layout ergonomically. The top and far right/left of the monitor are just high/far enough away that it’s slightly uncomfortable. I’d like to push the monitor back about another six to eight inches, but there’s not room on my desk.

Annoyances

A few annoyances with the setup so far.

First, the power management and Fedora don’t seem to get along. I had to turn off power management in KDE, because either Fedora was crashing, or the monitor wasn’t waking up again or taking a signal after KDE put the display to sleep.

The monitor has a sleep feature that kicks in at a regular interval, and the option to turn it off is greyed out in its menu. So, every few hours I get a overlay display on the monitor telling me it’s going to sleep in 60 seconds. So I grab the remote, mash a button, and it stays awake. (Or if I’m not at the computer, I have to power it on again when I get back to the desk.)

Not a huge deal, but also a bit annoying.

It has a PC input for sound, but I haven’t found a way to select that input while also using HDMI, which is annoying.

The only workable input to get the 4K resolution is HDMI. I’d like to use DisplayPort, but that’s not an option for this display. I’ve read a bit about “active” DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters that might let me use the laptop DisplayPort successfully, and I’m going to try that soon.

tl;dr

For my use, the positives outweigh the negatives, though I debate whether I should have waited for the Dell 4K monitors. Higher cost, but probably better quality and easier to set up.

But, you get what you pay for. The Seiki is cheap and available now. It works well enough that I’m sure I’ll get quite a bit of use out of it. Worst case scenario, I could always use it as a TV if 4K ever really becomes a thing for Blu Ray/streaming video and replace it with a Dell or another proper 4K monitor when they become more available.

If you spend all day at the computer, I’d strongly recommend checking it out.