Pagerduty's fantastic Zookeeper bug

Ok, I don’t particularly like calling a bug fantastic, in this case, it is more of a fantastic troubleshooting of a bug. What I found interesting was the layers that were unpeeled one by one to reach the probable region of the root cause. (Yeah, the root cause is probably so esoteric and confined to a specific combination of version, that it is unlikely to be looked at by anybody).

The Windows bundling racket gets a jolt in France

Finally a victory!. A French laptop buyer has won a refund from Lenovo after a four-year legal battle over the cost of a Windows license he didn’t want. The judgment could open the way for PC buyers elsewhere in Europe to obtain refunds for bundled software they don’t want, French campaign group No More Racketware said Monday. The first sane judgement against the fraud on consumers which has been happening for almost two decades - bundling the Windows OS with all new consumer laptops and desktops.

Microsoft using Secureboot to lock down ARM

Thanks to a tip from a colleague - Anshu, I found out further confirmation that the Secureboot issue, that I blogged about earlier, is going to bite us badly just as we expected. According to this post of the Software Freedom Law Center, Microsoft has recently revised it’s Windows 8 Hardware Certification requirements to lock out all alternative OSes from the ARM-based mobile devices that it ships on. The Certification Requirements define (on page 116) a “custom” secure boot mode, in which a physically present user can add signatures for alternative operating systems to the system’s signature database, allowing the system to boot those operating systems.

The incoming Secureboot/Restrictedboot war

For those who aren’t aware of this, FSF (Free Software Foundation) has been running a campaign for the last few months about Microsoft’s malicious Secureboot initiative (which FSF calls restricted boot). Given the mostly Microsoft friendly corporate IT environments out there, I think this is one topic on which most employees should be very aware. A nice summary of the issue can be read up at: Apparently, Microsoft is practically arm-twisting OEM manufacturers to implement Secureboot to be able to install Windows 8 on their systems - it is a Windows 8 requirement.

Quick tip: Making ssh agent work in screen sessions

The only annoying this I find in the otherwise indispensable GNU Screen is the fact that once you have launched screen (not resume) and have detached and logged off the first time, ssh-agent magic stops working in the screen sessions. Obviously this is because the next time you login, your ssh agent socket changes but the screen sessions still only have the location of the ssh-agent socket when you launched screen for the first time.

Automatic folders for mailing lists using procmail

Here is a quick tip which I have gleaned from multiple sources which makes using procmail filters a breeze. I subscribe to dozens of mailing lists, and it really is somewhat of a chore to create filters for every mailing list I signup for so that mails for that list goes to a separate folder. However, it is possible to setup procmailrc in such a way that you really don’t need to update procmailrc for every new mailing list that you signup for.

Restart/Shutdown your Linux machine using dbus

Ok. This is fairly trivial stuff for many of you, but what I found interesting is that the SystemBus lets you shutdown/restart/suspend/hibernate as an ordinary user. Of course, if you think of a desktop, that is a pretty basic expectation of what an ordinary end-user should be able to do. But when I think about a server, the thought that people can bypass a sudo while doing a shutdown makes me uneasy.

Quick tip: Merging photos from two different cameras

This time when we went to Pondicherry on the year end, we took two cameras - I took my Rebel XTi and my wife the LX3. While uploading our photos to Flickr, we had a problem. We wanted to merge our photo sets, but because of the different photo naming conventions of the two cameras, the photos won’t be sorted according to time taken. The solution, as I found out after a bit of digging and trying out different exif tools, was simple enough.

Using the official Flickr uploadr on Ubuntu

I normally use jUploader for uploading photos to Flickr from my Ubuntu Jaunty box. However, since I got the amazing Panasonic DMC-LX3 compact camera, I have been uploading HD videos too to Flickr. Now none of the FOSS tools that I know of support video right now. Since I insist on uploading photos in the order that I have taken them, it makes my photo upload workflow really messy - upload a few photos from jUploader, go to flickr.

Removing encryption from (legitimate!) PDF files on Ubuntu

Many service providers have started encrypting the statements that they send you. While at some level, it does add some amount of security when the path to your inbox is not very secure. However, it is sometimes a major pain when you want to archive your emails. This is because every provider has decided on a different secret to encrypt your PDF. So if one day you wish to access a statement of your phone bill from three months back, you have to look up the bill from your archive and read the mail to find out what they used to encrypt it.

Using ffmpeg on Ubuntu to convert DV videos for video sharing websites

To begin with, this is the problem that I had. I had recorded a short clip using my Panasonic NV-GS330 camcorder. I had to upload it to Vimeo, my video sharing website of choice. From the camcorder to the computer Importing the video from the camcorder to the laptop was not much of a problem. I plugged in the camcorder to my laptop using a firewire card. Then I used Kino to position the tape (the camcorder uses mini dv tapes) just before the beginning of the clip I wanted to import and hit the capture button.

Why I returned my Mac

I realize the title of this post is a bit provocative, but I could not think of any other way to put it. Some weeks back, I got a new Mac Book Pro at work. This was my first exposure to Apple’s computer products, and after the initial few moments of aah-ooh’s wore off, I started using it for what I was supposed to do - work. It so happens that after about a week of use, I returned the MBP and went back to the other standard (and much less expensive) HP notebook used in the company.

Giving up on bcm43xx in Gutsy beta

The only major issue that I have felt in my use of Ubuntu till date(and to be fair, this is not ubuntu specific) is the problems I keep having with wireless setup. I can live with any of it’s other flaws. In earlier releases, the problem had been WPA support. The default install didn’t have wpa_supplicant, and to install wpa_supplicant, you needed to have network first, dammit! So I had to run around looking for a network cable, sit next to my AP, patiently download the package, figure out the unnecessarily verbose documentation and finally set up the stuff(in two terminals, one keeping an eye on the messages of wpa_cli).

BSD or GPL in the ideal world?

This Slashdot comment probably summarizes the difference of intent between and BSD and GPL as succinctly as one can. Every person who is unclear about the licence to use in his code, or has been a blind follower (“Should be the right one, because everyone seems to be using it”), should keep this at heart. … when the only two ways to release software are BSD and GPL, the GPL will no longer be necessary, but we are not there.

Moved over to Gutsy

Just upgraded my notebook to Gutsy a couple of days back. It is still in beta and would be released on 18th October. I recently changed my desktop over to Gnome from KDE. I have been a Kubuntu/KDE user for years, but the look and feel of KDE has remained tacky for a while now while Gnome had a very clean efficient look about it. But this also meant that I had the complete Gnome and KDE stack on my notebook, so I had to download about 1.