Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmakwanzukah

And so, Winter Break begins...

See you next year!

Images, cont.

My Image Definition Documentation

I'm making my notes available here publically in case anyone is interested, I exported it to HTML from Tomboy Notes.

Another issue creeps up

So, now I've noticed another quirky aberration in the laptop image. All the laptop clients that get imaged are using "eth2" and "wlan0" as their wired and wireless network interfaces when they were "eth0" and "eth1" on the original. I don't think this will actually affect their functionality, but it's kind of weird.

Looking to the future

As I look towards what I should do next on the images, I'm faced with what looks like a pretty open-ended roadless landscape. There are a few things that I can think of off the top of my head that would really improve our image:

  • I need a way to make a change to an image and have that change pushed out to the clients that use that image. This is ESSENTIAL to being able to steer the development of the workstations. Without a good method for deploying my work, I'll be using a good chunk of time running around and Ghosting the clients. I believe that if I can get the SystemImager Suite up and running, it should fit this need well.
  • Very closely linked to being able to update the clients easily and simply is the ability to manage the various configuration DIFFERENCES between the clients. For example, their hostnames, any printer configurations by class, etc.
  • Getting the iTALC classroom management suite up and running is definately the highest priority next step for the image. I have 4 classrooms where the teachers have decided that if the new image doesn't have iTALC, they want nothing to do with it. Luckily, iTALC development has picked back up (There's a release candidate for version out!), and it's actually now for both Linux AND Windows. I've subscribed to the iTALC mailing lists in order to get the support I'll need to get the most out of it.
  • Microsoft Active Directory Integration is something I think needs to happen. It's not a particularly high priority yet, though. I'll be working with the ubuntu-directory team on this one. We hope to have this sort of thing automated into Ubuntu by Feisty's release. One new issue with implementing this will be figuring out how to get the laptops to authenticate to the network; the current default behavior is to connect to the network AFTER logging in.
  • A better "Locker" system is a must, though again not a particularly high-priority need. I'd like the locker to map onto the local filesystem automatically on login the way it works on our Windows workstations so the students don't have to give it a second thought.

There's a lot of work still ahead.

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Jeremy Allison leaves Novell

I don't know the guy.

I did hear about him a bit, and listened to him a few times on different podcasts. I guess I got a good enough idea about who he is that when I heard about the Novell/Microsoft deal, one of my first thoughts was "I wonder if Jeremy Allison will quit over this"...

He has. And I quote:

"Whilst the Microsoft patent agreement is in place there is nothing we can do to fix community relations."

It's interesting to me to see what's happening here. Novell has made a move that, although maybe historic, is not particularly controversial in the proprietary software world. It's a simple business decision that, regardless of the risks, is directly related to a corporation's basic raison d'etre: the bottom line.

I can't imagine they didn't expect a community backlash from this, though. Question is, did they really not understand how much using a legal loophole to sidestep the license most of the Open Source community uses as the very BASE foundation upon which to work would offend some people? the very people their business depends on?

The GPL is much more than a license to the Open Source world; it's an expression of the philosophy and spirit of the community. To sidestep it is, at its very simplest, to show that one doesn't agree with this philosophy and spirit.

One thing I had been noticing is how silent the voice of dissent is from Novell employees. A lot of these people are heavily involved in the community, people like Miguel De Icaza and Ted Haeger. Noone had yet, as far as I have seen, stepped up and said "You know, I work for Novell, and I don't agree with this decision." And now the only Novell employee I've heard express a dissenting opinion does so in the context of quitting.


As an aside, one of the things I like about Canonical's involvement with the community is that Canonical employees can disagree publically. Mark Shuttleworth can say he believes that Ubuntu should move in one direction, and Jono Bacon can articulately and clearly disagree with Mark. I find that refreshing.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Image Progress


Alright, so I now have three Ghost images: one for each hardware configuration. As I type this, though, I'm updating the software on them after which I'll have to re-create the images in order for them to stay up-to-date. (There were a LOT of software updates between yesterday when I left work and this morning.)

This is the current state of the images:

170 Desktop Image

  • During the boot and shutdown process on the imaged client, the screen is completely black(no progress bar). It works fine on the original "golden client". This is kind of annoying because the progress bar lets you know that everything's loading smoothly.

Any ideas?

210 Desktop Image

Haven't tried this one out yet...

1300 Laptop Image

  • I had to create a new Ghost boot disk for this one in order to be able to see the network; I just took the old disk and replaced the DOS drivers.
  • Needs to be booted to a Live CD in order to sudo dd if=laptop.mbr of=/dev/hda bs=512 count=61 it before it will boot to the new image. This is a pretty common issue when using Symantec Ghost 8.0 with Linux, and now that I understand it it's a pretty simple problem to fix. (Only needs to be done once per laptop.)

Other than that, smooth sailing on this one. I'll need to figure out how to connect to the wireless network BEFORE logging in if I'm ever going to get these to be able to authenticate against our Active Directory, but I'm not likely to have time to tackle that issue anytime soon if history is a guide.

Samba Weirdness

I'm overall satisfied with my first set of "standardized" images. They're very basic, nothing flashy, but so far the teachers haven't really gone beyond using the very basic apps that come with Ubuntu. Most important, though, is the fact that they give me a good foundation to work on and this time, since I'm keeping good documentation, I'll be able to duplicate my work even if my workstation gets wiped clean again.

I am kind of annoyed by one minor thing...

I can't, for the life of me, figure out how to define the "Domain" variable for when one tries to connect to the lockers. When one double-clicks on the "lockers" icon, one is prompted to enter one's username, domain, and password. The domain should ALWAYS be "MCCSC", but it always comes up as "WORKGROUP".

The "workgroup" variable in smb.conf doesn't affect this field, oddly enough.

I have this working correctly on my Edubuntu 5.10 image! The students don't need to worry about the "Domain" variable on those, because it's already set as "MCCSC"...I was just not bright enough to keep decent documentation of HOW I set it correctly...

Any ideas?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Image Standardization

During the home stretch of this semester, I'm putting priority on creating a standard image that will work on all our hardware. Well, not exactly, I'm creating an abstract definition of what our images should be, I'll be applying that abstract definition to three actual images (based on hardware platform) to fill our needs.

The first step in the process was writing a well-documented definition of what exact changes need to be made to the base Ubuntu install in order to make it suitable for our needs

I then installed Ubuntu on each of the three different hardware platforms (Dell 170Ls, Dell 210Ls, and 10 Dell Inspiron 1300s), followed the script laid out by the definition, and boom: I have an image for each hardware type.

Getting the SystemImager Suite working has taken quite a bit longer than I expected, so we're still depending on Symantec Ghost 8.0--in Unicast mode--for all our imaging needs.

We now have what it takes to complete setting up the final classroom (which, for some reason that escapes my ken, has both 170s and 210s in it).

Since I have not gotten a working classroom management suite on the new image yet, the original four classroom teachers do not want to be upgraded to it yet.

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Friday, December 15, 2006


Long time no post. Progress has been slow and I've been working some issues in my personal life so I haven't had much to report, but I figure I should offer some sort of update, in case someone actually misses me.


I continue to work on getting the SystemImager suite to work here on an Ubuntu server that IS NOT the DHCP server for the network. Not complicated work: I try and then I tell their mailing list where and how it broke, they give me suggestions, lather, rinse, repeat. It is taking while, though I take comfort in the fact that after I get this working, I can contribute that back to the community and keep people like me from going through this in the future.

Once I get a decent imaging/update system in place, I'll be able to push any work I do on the images out to the workstations with minimal pain, and keep all the workstations consistent. At the moment I have 4 classrooms full of Edubuntu 5.10 machines that I tweaked a bit last school year and 5 with Ubuntu 6.10 that I haven't had much chance to tweak this year. I want to take the best of the work I put into the 5.10 machines and put that on a 6.10 image for every classroom.

I'm beginning to learn the utility of keeping good notes and documentation.


While playing around with Apache at home, I got quite the shock:

Why I did not become a Doctor or a Soldier

Ack! No! I didn't mean to!


I was approached through flickr and asked if one of my photos could be used in a book by an independent publisher in Hong Kong. I was offered three copies of the book in exchange for permission to use my photo in the book. With no expectations, and in fact a little suspicion, I played along.

Today I received my three copies and found that my photo is the featured photo on the Miyajima Island section/spread:

Otorii Gate - Miyajima Island - Japan

Even though I can't find any information on the book online through Google besides the flickr pages, I have three beautiful copies of it. Pretty spiffy honor if you ask me!

BTW, the book's name is "Legends of the Dragon" ISBN 988-98899-6-X

That's it

One more week til Christmas Break!

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Jorge Castro

Jorge Castro has made me sad by saying goodbye to the community.

Jorge was one of the first people I met in this community, and I hope his exit is not final.