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] The Compositional Nature of Vim

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 »

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).)

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?

The 4K Desktop on Fedora

Seiki 4K on Fedora

Seiki 4K on Fedora

Like a lot of folks, I caught the “4K is for Programmers” post off Hacker News a few days ago (it’s here, but the link seems to be borked at the moment) and got to thinking about more desktop space. Much more.

My current setup, when not traveling, involves a 27″ 2560×1440 display – usually connected to my laptop. Even with that, I found myself tabbing through windows too often balancing terminal windows, browser windows, and mail.

Eventually I decided it was worth a shot, and ordered the Seiki 4K 39″ (SE39UY04) off Amazon. Unfortunately, didn’t seem to have much luck getting it going with my existing video card in the workstation or my laptop, so I wound up ordering a EVGA GeForce GTX760, and slapped that into the workstation.

It takes a few steps to get it going at its full resolution on Fedora 20, at least with my setup:

  1. Install the nVidia drivers as explained in this F19 nVidia install/un-install guide.
  2. As shown in this forum post, add a line to /etc/X11/xorg.conf in the Device section with several options that are needed to pass the right resolution:Option "ModeValidation" "AllowNon60hzmodesDFPModes, NoEDIDDFPMaxSizeCheck, NoVertRefreshCheck, NoHorizSyncCheck, NoDFPNativeResolutionCheck, NoMaxSizeCheck, NoMaxPClkCheck, AllowNonEdidModes, NoEdidMaxPClkCheck"
  3. Add the file /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-monitor.conf, with this content:
    Section "Monitor"
      Identifier "Monitor0"
      Modeline "3840x2160" 307.00 3840 4016 4104 4400 2160 2168 2178 2250 +hsync +vsync
    Section "Screen"
      Identifier "Screen0"
      Device "HDMI-0"
      Option "ModeValidation" "AllowNon60hzmodesDFPModes, NoEDIDDFPMaxSizeCheck, NoVertRefreshCheck, NoHorizSyncCheck, NoDFPNativeResolutionCheck, NoMaxSizeCheck, NoMaxPClkCheck, AllowNonEdidModes, NoEdidMaxPClkCheck"
      Monitor "Monitor0"
      DefaultDepth 24
      SubSection "Display"
        Depth 24
        Modes "3840x2160" "1920x1080"

And that’s really it. Once I logged out and back in, it automagically detected the highest resolution and set the monitor to it.

Is the picture as nice as the 27″ Cinema Display? No. But it works fine, and after some tweaking (turn the Sharpness to 0, use the User preset) it’s a respectable picture.

I also tested plugging in the 27″ display and the 39″ display at the same time… yep, they both work. So if I can clear enough space on the desk, I’ll have waaay too much desktop space to play with. It has four outputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, and two DVI. I may see if it can drive all four just for grins, though I can’t imagine using that setup all day.. or having space for it on my desktop.

Given that the 4K post seemed to spark a lot of conversation, I do hope we’ll start seeing some focus on higher resolution monitors in the near future. We’ve been stuck for a few years with stagnant pricing on higher resolution displays (e.g. 2560×1440 displays) and not many options. Looking forward to working with the new biggie-sized desktop.

4K and Fedora?

Decided that mere 2560×1440 resolution was just not cutting it on the desktop, so I ordered a 39″ Seiki 4K monitor on Amazon. Should be arriving tomorrow. Wondering if anyone else in Fedoraland has set one of these puppies up, and if so – what video card and drivers you’re using?

I have a Dell dual-Xeon workstation with a nVidia Quadro NVS 295. A bit of googling suggests that it might have trouble driving something with a resolution higher than 2560×1600. Any experience with this video card and Fedora would also be welcome!

FOSDEM Distributions Developer Room: Call for Participation

FOSDEM LogoOnce again, FOSDEM will have a cross-distribution miniconference on 1 & 2 February 2014. We’d like to invite submissions of talks, Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions, or round-table discussions from any interested representatives of Linux distributions or individuals who have a topic of interest related to Linux distributions.

Proposals should be submitted through the FOSDEM proposal system (Pentabarf) here:


You’ll add your session title, speaker bio, and abstract for the talk. If you’ve presented or submitted at FOSDEM previously, you should have an account in Pentabarf. If you haven’t created an account, but have presented at FOSDEM previously please contact me before creating an account – the odds are you have an account that was created previously by the FOSDEM organizers.

Deadline for submissions is 22 December 2013. Since we’re on a tight timeline, this is unlikely to be extended.

In addition to speakers, we also need one moderator for each day, and a video volunteer for each day. The moderator will introduce the speaker, keep time, and pass the microphone around for questions. The video volunteer will handle recording of sessions with provided equipment. (Don’t worry, we’ll also provide training as well.)

The call for participation is going out a bit late, so please do speak up quickly if you’re interested in participating! Also, please do help spread the word so we can ensure the best possible program for this year’s FOSDEM.

First Impressions at AWS re:Invent

Last year I attended AWS re:Invent, kinda, sorta. We were in Las Vegas to put on the first Apache CloudStack conference and most of my time and brainpower were consumed with last-minute planning for that event. I did spend time in the developer area, on exhibit floor, and some of the after-parties – but it wasn’t a usual conference for me.

This year, I’m actually not consumed with pre-conference planning (though the CloudStack Collaboration Conference is happening next week in Amsterdam, and I’m sad I won’t be able to attend), so I’ve been paying attention to re:Invent.

Generally, I tend to attend more community/FOSS and techie shows than big vendor blow-outs like AWS re:Invent. The very scale of the event is really impressive, and I have to give Amazon kudos for the slickness of the presentations and how smoothly the event is running. The registration, for instance, was totally slammed on day one – yet they kept the lines moving really well and even had a DJ (!) playing tunes in the corner to make the wait a little better.

The content on the other hand… well, it’s a bit generic and the keynote yesterday was definitely not what I was hoping for or expecting. First, I was surprised and disappointed at the amount of time Amazon spent calling out competitors (IBM, for an admittedly silly marketing stunt) and dissing private cloud. Does Amazon offer a solution that’s really appealing for certain applications or certain types of companies? Yup. Is public cloud ever going to be the majority of the compute market? I’m not convinced.

The keynote yesterday felt like a plea to enterprise, and way too much preaching to the converted and marketing fluff that we already knew anyway. Yeah, we get it: AWS is big, lots of customers (oooh, pretty NASCAR slides) and so forth. At least they did announce a few new services during the keynote, so attendees got a little excitement.

For me, the biggest part of any event is the “hallway track.” On one hand, it’s pretty good here because there’s about 9,000 people – you can easily find interesting people who are doing fun stuff with AWS and other tech, so that’s been good.

The bad, really bad, is the conference scheduling site is terrible and there’s no attendee directory whatsoever. I was doubly disappointed when I looked on Lanyrd and found only about 40 people signed up. It would have been great if I could have searched a directory (opt-in, of course) to try to connect with people ahead of time to meet and talk about their cloud usage.

Maybe next year. Overall, I think re:Invent is worth the time, money, and trip if you’re using AWS or are trying to disrupt AWS – but there are a number of things Amazon could do to make the conference more friendly for attendees and partners.

LinuxCon, CloudOpen, and Gluster Community Day

Next week is a big one for Linux and Open Cloud practitioners and enthusiasts: It’s the annual North American LinuxCon (and CloudOpen), put on by the Linux Foundation – and, following LinuxCon, the Gluster community is putting on a Gluster Community Day on September 19th.

Naturally, LinuxCon is on my “don’t miss” list of events, and I’m really looking forward to attending the Gluster Community Day and learning a lot more about Gluster. I have a little background on Gluster from looking into it when I was spending more time on Apache CloudStack, but need to get some quality hands-on time with it.

If you’re attending LinuxCon, don’t miss my talk on Wednesday: Everything I Know About the Cloud, I Learned from Game of Thrones. Hoping to have a lot of fun with the topic, but also actually pass on something useful about Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds for folks who are somewhat new to the topic. Need I add, there will be Game of Thrones spoilers if you haven’t read the books/watched the show. (And if you haven’t, well… you have almost a week to do so.) Also, if you’re already familiar with Game of Thrones on HBO… don’t worry, the talk will be G-rated.

See you in New Orleans!