יום ראשון, דצמבר 21, 2008

KDE-4.2 בעברית

לפני כמה ימים דיאגו דן בנושא

לשמחתי, הוא בדיוק העלה את הנושא בזמן המתאים.
כעת קל להתרשם/לבדוק בלי לגעת במערכת הרגילה שלכם:
  • הורידו את קובץ ה-ISO מכאן. קובץ זה מכיל גרסת Fedora-10 עם KDE-4.2beta2.
  • אפשר להתקין אותו בקלות על גבי DOK במקום לצרוב:
livecd-iso-to-disk --reset-mbr --noverify \
--overlay-size-mb 100 --home-size-mb 150 \
--unencrypted-home --delete-home \
f10-image.iso /dev/sdc1

נא לבחור את המחיצה הנכונה של ה-DOK שלכם. התהליך אינו מוחק את תוכן ה-DOK הקודם.

פרטים נוספים בכתובת

יום שני, דצמבר 08, 2008

Computer based testing

About 6 months ago I encountered an interesting web based system for managing and running exams via the computer. It was TCExam and it got me in an excellent timing.

I was running an introductory Linux and free-software course for a group of teachers (which was organized by the tireless Yael Talmor) and we were looking for a final project we can give them. However, most were non-technical users.

So we decided to let them translate TCExam to Hebrew:
  • They only need short explanation and can use gedit for that.
  • They are bound to use Linux for that (it's UTF-8 encoded and doing conversion to windows would be more difficult for them than simply use the desktops we installed during the course).
  • They may have direct benefit for their school (TCExam server).
  • Either way, it would help other school projects in Israel.

It took them longer than I was hoping for, but they collectively did some 3/4 of the job. In the last days I finished the rest (most of it, ~10 big strings + cleanups are needed), sent it upstream and packaged the latest and greatest version.

  • It's still waiting for review (hint, hint...)
  • There are some minor problems (e.g: the front page of the admin interface have some formating problems I didn't have time to debug yet).
  • However, it's usable.
  • Grab the RPMs for F10: tcexam, tcexam-selinux, tcexam-mysql, tcexam-postgresql
  • Packagers for other distros (Debian?) you may want to look at the spec file.
Comments/flames etc. are most welcome (especially if they refer to the specific problems reported by rpmlint or the package design issues I mention in the review request.

יום שבת, אוקטובר 25, 2008

האם ניתן לגרום למיקרוסופט לשתף פעולה

יתכן שכן
אתמול דווח שמיקרוסופט הצטחפה כחברה בוועדת התקינה של AMPQ
ההבדלים הבולטים בין "הצטרפות" זאת למקרים אחרים הם:

  • התקן מובל על ידי עולם הקוד הפתוח, חברת רד-האט היא מהמייסדות שלו ובצעה התקנות בארגונים גדולים
  • חברות בוועדה דורשת חתימה על הסכמים שמונעים מהחברים לבצע תעלולי פטנטים וכדומה

פרטים נוספים באנגלית

מסקנת ביניים שלי: אם לא נכנעים ללחץ שלהם (כמו בהסכם של נובל) וממשיכים לרוץ קדימה, אז בסוף אין להם ברירה. כך, אולי כשהמשיח יבוא (או יותר סביר, כאשר המונופול שלהם יישחק) הם עלולים ללמוד להתנהג כראוי... (ואז גלעד בן-יוסף יוכל להגיד שהוא צדק)

יום שלישי, אוקטובר 14, 2008

Hebrew installation of Fedora 10

Few minutes ago I sent my latest update to anaconda Hebrew translation which brings us to 92% translated strings. Thanks to the wonders of transifex, it is already committed into anaconda git repository. So now we are officially qualified and Hebrew speaking people can use their native language during the installation process.

I'd like to thank two people for that:
  • Lior Kaplan who have done the Hebrew translation for Debian Etch (some two years ago) and as a result for all Debian-derived distros. That was what pushed me to match the record for Fedora...
  • Mark Krapivner who sent me some quality translations and helped me finish it in time.

Hebrew speakers, please test. Few tips for the testers:
  • The Beta release already contains the "Hebrew" selection, although at the time it was composed there was only some ~75% translated (and I've done many fixes later).
  • Booting from an install image should give you Hebrew (עברית) when you start the install.
  • If you boot a live-CD, you should select Hebrew at the gdm login screen (thank the GNOME translators). Then, you'll get a Hebrew desktop. (Double)-clicking on the installation icon on the desktop would start /usr/bin/liveinst in Hebrew (like any other application).
  • If you boot KDE live-CD, there's a quirk. The kdm login screen present no language selection because of the different way of language setup in KDE. As a result, you'll get a KDE4 desktop in English and your locale would be en_US.UTF-8. The workaround for any foreign language install is to open a 'konsole' and run:

su - # Open a root shell (no password, it's a live CD)
LANG=he_IL.UTF-8 liveinst
[note: if anyone has a non-commandline workaround/fix for KDE-live-CD, say so]


יום חמישי, ספטמבר 25, 2008

מזל טוב פדורה

ואי אפשר בלי שי קטן
אז יש לנו תכנה עברית קטנה שנכתבה על ידי קובי זמיר
yum install libhocr
כן היא כעת חבילה רשמית בפדורה

יום חמישי, ספטמבר 04, 2008

Linux (and this new Chrome thingy...)

Chrome was covered so widely that I decided not to refer its features, but
try to focus on the Linux side of things.
  • Many journalists reported that "...only a Windows version was released..." Since they come from a Windows world, they obviously don't understand the role of distributions and packagers:
    • Check license before, not after you install.
    • Be in contact with (or part of) the upstream development team -- so the development process is open as well as the license.
    • Integrate with the rest of your distribution -- there's no need to have two copies of google-gears or other shared resources. The new architecture may help us isolate it better via SELinux policy or other means (chrooting selected web-sites?)
    • I.E: leaving the binary composition to the distributions was a wise decision IMO.
  • There were also a lot of speculation about Chrome killing of Firefox or vise versa. Again, this Windows mentality of "zero sum games". We Linux people (and Unix veterans) are used to have many "competing" tools -- Perl/Python/PHP/Ruby, GNOME/KDE, etc. -- Tools like nm-applet and pk sit nicely on my KDE system tray, just like Amarok can sit nicely on the GNOME panel.
  • In the free software world, most of the competition result in variety of reusable toolkits, each with its own pros/cons -- this is a win/win situation:
    • Long live Konqi (yes, we want Webkit ;-)
    • Long live Firefox (Prism, TraceMonkey, maybe even Gecko...)
    • Long live Chromium

יום שישי, אוגוסט 01, 2008

August Penguins

The yearly conference of the Israeli penguins had an unexpected
(or rather expected) sponsor.

To help these poor outsiders adjust, I decided to prepare a short guide (PDF):

יום שני, יולי 21, 2008

The sunshine makes everything so dark...

Study: OSS Communities Are Often Slackers in Security

As usual, when you read these type of articles in reverse everything is so much clearer. So let's start from the end:
  • One paragraph before last, they bother mentioning the research company also provides "audited versions of several open source packages" and link to their friendly Open Review Project. OK, so it's not about security, or rather it's about their financial security...
  • Somewhere in the middle of the text, it becomes clear they only talk about open source Java and for the study they examined some 11 projects -- that's no doubt a typical representation of the FOSS community projects.
  • Also great quotes:
  • ..."One is the absence of any procedures for reporting bugs or security flaws."
    • Can you show me a decent FOSS project without a bugzilla?
    • Can you point to the URL for public reporting of bugs in proprietary products?
  • After reading through the text I found they try to compare "community" FOSS with "commercial" FOSS. They don't even mention proprietary.
  • Oh, we finally got to the title... yes, it was the communities they were bashing all along, not FOSS per-se. They actually claim to help FOSS by selling audited versions of the untrusted community editions. Just like our MS friendlies that simply love FOSS as long as it's on their terms.
So what can be said about this crap:
  • If these Fortify Software chaps really have a business plan around FOSS than a good advice would be -- if you want to drink from this well, don't piss in it...
  • And lets be clear about it -- I'm all for full disclosure of security flaws (FOSS or otherwise), but this article didn't disclose anything except paragraphs upon paragraphs of FUD.
Pretty obvious from the title, don't you think?

יום שלישי, יוני 24, 2008

AdvFS for Linux

This post resulted from a question on one of the mailing lists I read
responding to HP code release.

> what are it's benefits compared to ext3, ext4, jfs, reiserfs etc?

That's not the correct comparison. In AdvFS you mount a fileset
that may be stored on several volumes (partitions). So the correct
comparison should be to:
1. Either Zfs, or
2. LVM + traditional filesystems.

BTW: IIRC, when LVM1 was developed for Linux, there was a debate
within kernel community about the pros/cons of modular approach
(separate volume management abstraction and separate file system
abstraction) against an integrative approach as existed in AdvFS
(that debate predated Zfs by ~10 years).

> What can be done with AdvFS that can't be done today on Linux?

Just like asking what can be done with ext3 that cannot be done with
e.g: xfs?

Each storage solution has different tradeoffs. The hard question
is if the unique behaviour of this solution justify the extra burden
of development and maintenance. On the other hand it's an interesting
piece of code which is very mature technology (15+ years) and include
high end features that are only becoming common in recent years
(distributed storage, online resize, snapshotting, defrag, etc).

An interesting aside: I downloaded the docs and peeked into the training
material, which is a set of PDF's. As I always do, I looked into the
document properties (Alt+Return in evince).... and lo and behold,
the "Producer:" string is ..... (look for yourselves, it begins with
a capital O ;-)

[yes, they obviously did the most logical step in converting old
and bit-rotten powerpoint slides to something sane]

יום רביעי, יוני 18, 2008

איזה קצב...

אחרי התחלה קשה, נראה שהחברה מתחילים להתעורר:
כרגע אני רואה בסביבות 5700 הורדות בדקה!

יום רביעי, יוני 11, 2008

Openoffice.org Arabic/Hindi numerals bug

The aforementioned bug which is a show-stopper to Hebrew users was opened by me very late in the Fedora-9 release cycle (it's against OO.org-2.4.0):
  • 10-May-2008 - Open the bug. Very, very late...
  • 12-May-2008 - Caulan McNamara remark it's too late for F9, but will get into first update.
  • 13-May-2008 - Fedora-9 is released. Hebrew users that install it have a problem.
  • 06-Jun-2008 - Openoffice.org-2.4.1 (which include the bugfix) built in koji and pushed to Rawhide.
  • 10-Jun-2008 - Pushed into Fedora-9

This bug was reported by me at the worst possible timing (3 days before release) so I think we were lucky to have 2.4.1 so quickly.

Thank you all OO.org/Fedora maintainers.
And of course to Lior Kaplan that triaged this bug.

יום שלישי, מאי 20, 2008

Linking to Fedora Planet

As Seth Vidal made it so easy to join for any Fedoran, this will be just a "Hello Planet" post.

תודה לכל אנשי פדורה באשר הם...

Yes, I know it was Hebrew to you.
In fact it should have been Hebrew for everybody else as well ;-)

[Darn, I've put the blog url instead of the rss url in the .planet, should be OK now]

יום ראשון, מרץ 23, 2008

Hardware woes, a day in a life

An advanture in (literally) many pieces...
  • It starts with power-on problems:
    • This morning, my main computer went bust. It hanged, and after trying to reboot it, simply refused to turn-on.
    • Taking the power-cord off, wait a minute for it to cool, nothing (not even the fans).
    • OK, it's a power-supply -- that's simple, I had a spare one.
    • Few minutes later (open the case, find the spare): Hmmm... the old spare has only a big flat motherboard connector. The installed one had also another small rectangular one. So the spare is older than I need...
    • No problem, a quick drive to a local store (and buy food for the cat on the way), leave 130 NIS (~37$) at the store and got even nicer PS (with big down facing fan).
  • The power-supply is fixed:
    • Connected it to the MB, tested power-button, fans are moving, good, problem solved.
    • Yeh, sure... the PS is good, but the motherboard looks dead -- no beep, no signal to monitor.
    • Disconnected all disks, removed an unnecessary card, repeat -- the same.
    • So it looks like the MoBo is a goner as well.
  • Let's get a new MoBo:
    • Went to an even more local store (identity hidden to protect the guilty).
    • Asked for a replacement (for Pentium 4, 3Ghz), turns out it would cost 400 NIS (more than a 115$).
    • Maybe it's better to simply buy a new MoBo+CPU+Ram and have an upgrade? I've always wanted an Intel Core 2 Duo (yes, kvm here we come ;-)
    • The seller shows me several options. I insist on an Intel chipset (free drivers) and he tries to sell me an Intel board, with Intel graphics chipset (yay) but some obscure Realtek Gigabit adapter. That's not what I want. He tries to convince me that "everybody" use Realtek network chips and that it's my only way (I don't really like that).
    • He got busy with more important customers and I quickly went to the first store. Back to original plan (A replacement MoBo).
    • They only had a single model of those 478 socket type boards. Some noname with a SiS chipset (Oouuch) for ~300 NIS. Problem: this board has no Sata. No-Problem: they have a 45 NIS Sata/Pata adapter. The seller reminded me about the thermal paste for the CPU (an extra 10 NIS) -- all totalling 364 NIS (~100 $) including VAT (some 25% less than the first guy wanted for a similar Mobo).
    • Back to home, reconnect quickly. I don't have an extra connector for some old PATA drivers I had (Sata convertor occupies its location). Nevermind, they are old backups. I'll look at this later.
    • Test. Good. Now we are stuck in GRUB!
  • Groovy adventures:
    • You see, due to the Sata/Pata flip-flop, drives changed positions and that killed grub.
    • That's should be one rescue CD away...
    • Boot old Knoppix (3.8.2) twice, no way, bad media.
    • In my CD pack I also had an old RIP, booted, it has "Boot to GRUB in it's menu" Yeh.
    • Doesn't work. Tested other menu item. Looks like bad media. Again? No it cannot be the drive. It must be old media.
    • Next is Fedora-8-KDE-Live. This boots OK.
    • As expected grub-install doesn't like to be run from the wrong root directory. A little more work:
      vgscan; vgchange -a y VolGroup00; mount /dev/Volgroup/fc8_slash /mnt/root
    • Now chroot into /mnt/root, grub-install still doesn't like me. Nevermind -- run grub and from the prompt use setup.
    • Took me few tests to get this right (set the "root" directive, before "setup") but finally it's done without errors.
  • Boot to the new system
    • And you thought it would be that easy...
    • Grub boots the kernel... "No Volume groups found"....."panic"
    • OK, so maybe putting '/' in a VG wasn't the smartest idea, but what's the problem?
    • Could it be that my games with grub somehow thrashed the VG partition? cannot be.
    • Boot in a hurry back to Fedora-Live, vgdisplay shows everything is OK (Pheeeuuuu). Maybe the stupid machine remember this VG was somewhere else? Check with vgdisplay -- no, everything looks fine with the new location.
    • OK, another test -- vgexport and vgimport again -- that should erase all previous memories of old location. Boot again... Same problem. Few more flip-flops like that and than it hits me -- it must be the stupid initrd.
    • Yes, the error message wasn't during the kernel boot but shortly afterwards when Fedora runs "nash".
    • Boot again to Fedora-Live, chroot again, mkinitrd, boot again...
    • Now the stupid beast tries to mount /dev/root without any reference to VG's and panics right away. That's an improvement (I've saved the old initrd) since it proves this is where the problem is located.
    • Boot again to Fedora-Live, now configure networking and STFW a bit for more details. Looks like I'm OK, but some options should be passed to do it right.
    • I decide to go the easy way: chroot to the OS and rpmquery --scripts kernel to see how the post install script runs mkinitrd. Well, they do it via new-kernel-pkg.
    • Now that's nice:
      new-kernel-pkg --mkinitrd --depmod --update
    • Boot to an almost working OS.
  • Final tidbits:
    • Network won't come up because /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0 bind the interface to the HWADDR -- fix it (and I maintain also /etc/ethers, so fix it as well).
    • Update time on the MoBo -- I did during one of the boots to Fedora-Live: system-config-date, select the timezone, exit and then
      ntpdate 0.fedora.pool.ntp.org; hwclock -u -w
    • No swap. The swap used to be on one of the old PATA devices I had. The main VG is full, but its physical disk is not, so: fdisk, create new partition, another VG (bad for performance, but who cares now...), a new LV in this VG, mkswap, update /etc/fstab and we are done.
    • Audio: system-config-soundcard does not know to unload the previous intel drivers (who loaded them anyway? maybe /etc/modprobe.conf, but they are not there anymore). An easy one -- fuser /dev/snd/*, kill them all (pulseaudio, arts, amarok, kmix), rmmod recursively like an idiot (rmmod/modprobe could have a usefull recursive option...). Rerun system-config-soundcard. No sound. Easy. Speaker cable was out. Still no sound. Easy. Mixers were at zero volume. Now everything is good.

  • Final thoughts:
    • Damage:
      • Hardware costs: ~500-550 NIS
      • Lost work day
      • Frustration, frustration, frustration...
    • Root partition in a VG comes with some complexities (and some conveniences as well).
    • Boot from arbitrary disks is hindered by:
      • Grub
      • Initrd
That's all folks, it's been a long day.