Friday, January 19, 2007

Image Update

The following packages have been added to my Image Definition:

winbind msttcorefonts sun-java5-jre sun-java5-bin sun-java5-plugin gstreamer0.10-pitfdll gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad-multiverse gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse

This will fix the WINS resolution not working, add the Microsoft TrueType Fonts people are used to using, add Java support, and provide CODECs for most RestrictedFormats (though not for Windows Media formats, as I understand that would be ilegal in the States)

Until I get iTALC running, though, none of the original four classrooms want anything to do with the new image. And until I get SystemImager running, I can't just push out these updates in any simple manner.

powered by performancing firefox

Packages, iTALC and SystemImager

There are two software packages that I would really love to work with, that I think most anyone in my situation would really love to work with, but they don't have .deb packages of the latest versions and the versions available from the Ubuntu repositories are far too old to be useful (all requests for support are answered with "first of all, you need to be using the latest version").

iTALC is one - Intelligent Teaching and Learning with Computers - which is a classroom management tool in the Big Brother tradition, which gives a simple, intuitive interface for the teacher to be aware of what their students are up to, and also give them a few remote control options that are pretty cool.

The other is SystemImager, which I've mentioned here before is a utility for installing and updating large numbers of identical computers (such as the 300 or so workstations I'm trying to manage).

Now, one of the great things about Ubuntu is the Package Management it inherits from Debian. I really dig apt-get and Synaptic. The only real problem with it is that most small free software projects (ok, generalizing based on personal experience here...) only seem to provide their releases in Red Hat's .rpm package format as well as in source.

While I have trudged my way through installing SystemImager from source on a server, with great hand-holding help from Andrea on the SystemImager mailing list, I really would rather not install stuff from source on the workstations. So, the other option would be building .deb packages from source on the server and installing the .debs on the workstations.

Only problem is, I have no experience with any of this. Compiling SystemImager from source was my first real compilation ever, and I wouldn't even know where to begin...

I was directed to, which unfortunately flies right over my head. I could beat my head against this for a while in order to figure this stuff out, but I really am hoping someone might be able to direct me to a simpler HOWTO that assumes a little less experience and hand-holds me through the process. Anyone?

P.S. It's my understanding that using alien to convert .rpms to .debs is not really a great solution. Anyone have experience with this?

powered by performancing firefox

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Samba Fun, Resolved but...

Ok, so, installing the "winbind" package gets the WINS services working correctly (I feel slightly sheepish about this, since I must have installed this on the old image to get it to work...) AND the /var/run/samba directory errors seem to go away...

Adding "passdb expand explicit = no" to smb.conf makes the other error (about that switch, though default, being deprecated) go away...


So, why doesn't the "Domain" field come up with "MCCSC" filled in automatically, now? It works fine on our old installs...

Although this particular strange behavior is simply annoying, it makes me wonder a) what other smb.conf options are being ignored? is this a symptom of a larger problem? or b) do I need to be changing a different setting elsewhere???

powered by performancing firefox

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Samba Fun!

I'd been wondering why a couple of things on our new Linux image weren't working quite right.

When students went to log into their lockers (hosted on a Samba share), it prompted them for their Username, Domain, and Password and the Domain was filled in as "WORKGROUP". I figured this was rather strange, since it showed up as "MCCSC" on the old image, what it should be.

"Oh well," I concluded, "I've got too many things coming at me to worry about this little thing, the students can type 5 extra characters when they want to get to their lockers, it's no big deal..."

I'm starting to wonder now whether it's not just the symptom of a much more basic problem.

The thing that got me to re-evaluate my conclusion was the fact that on the new image, WINS resolution just isn't working. After conversing with my friend, Google, and consulting my other friend, Book, I stared at the configuration file that I had DEFINITELY set correctly. I compared it to the configuration file from the old image, the one that works right, and everything was the same, but the new image just wasn't behaving properly.

Although feeling vindicated in that I did not cause the problem, I'm perplexed because that means I can't undo any stupid mistakes and have it fixed. Not to mention, since it's not working right I'm still got a bad feeling that it's my fault.

I ran the "testparm" command which is a very basic diagnostic that just tells you whether /etc/samba/smb.conf is correctly formatted, and *gasp* there's an error...but not in the smb.conf file! I ran "testparm" on the old image and no errors.

These are the three errors I get running "testparm" on the new image:

ERROR: lock directory /var/run/samba does not exist
ERROR: pid directory /var/run/samba does not exist
WARNING: passdb expand explicit = yes is deprecated

The strange thing is that these errors pop up AFTER it already says that it "Loaded services file OK.", so where the hell is it getting "passdb expand explicit = yes" from?!

Still not quite convinced that I didn't break something somehow, I booted to the Ubuntu Live CD, absolutely fresh image, ran testparm and BANG! Same three error messages!

It's NOT my fault! Hooray, I have proof!

Now...what gives? and how do I fix it?

Google is not being helpful at all with these error messages, which is rare.

I wasn't able to flag a live person on #samba on I said the following there:

I am running Ubuntu Edgy Eft (testparm -v = 3.0.22), and I noticed that none of the parameters I was specifying in my smb.conf file seemed to actually be DOING anything. I looked long and hard and consulted online documentation, Google, even a book (Linux in a Windows World), compared my smb.conf to one I had on an earlier installation (Ubuntu Breezy Badger, testparm -v = 3.0.14a-Ubuntu) that was working fine, and came to the conclusion that I had everything correct.

After painstakingly assuring myself that my smb.conf file was correctly formed as I wanted it, I tried "testparm" and noticed that I got three strange error messages AFTER being informed that it "Loaded services file OK.", these were "ERROR: lock directory /var/run/samba does not exist", "ERROR: pid directory /var/run/samba does not exist" and "WARNING: passdb expand explicit = yes is deprecated"

None of these errors are present when I run testparm on Breezy. Anyhow, just to make sure I hadn't made any stupid mistakes along the way I booted to the Ubuntu Live CD, ran testparm, and got the exact same error messages.

What gives? More importantly, how do I fix it?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

powered by performancing firefox

About Me

So, well, I've noticed that this blog is kind of dry.

Boy, it took him long enough...

I talk about the project I'm doing here at North, and not too much else. I was hoping this blog might be a good way to publish my work in an easily followable format, following the spirit of open source in the hopes that it might be useful to someone out there...and, admittedly, I did have the hope that people would be tripping over themselves to give me useful pearls of wisdom that would help me solve the issues I come up against.

It hasn't really worked that way. And that's ok. I really had (have, to be completely honest) no idea what the most useful way to do this whole blogging thing is. I've found an excellent way not to make it useful.

I was surprised, soon after beginning this blog, at how many people I met in real life at events and in the online community who were already following along with it (especially since people rarely comment). I wouldn't be surprised now to find that I've bored you all to the point of unsubscribing me from your RSS feeds. My one saving grace in this regard may be that since I post so infrequently, you might have simply forgotten to unsubscribe me.

In an effort to liven my blog up a bit, and maybe give you all a little context on who the man behind this particular curtain is, I've decided to write a blog post all about...


Ok, so it's a bit narcissistic, I know, but hear me out:

If you're reading this you might actually be interested. If you're not, then I won't be offended if you skip it. I however, find that I like getting to know the people whose blogs I read, so I'd like to give anyone out there who feels the same a chance to get to know me. I'll see what I can do about keeping it all more or less on-topic.

So, split into a few sections:

Basic Info (or, Vital Statistics, Plus!)

A Portrait of Me

My name is Simón Anibal Ruiz Rolfs. I was born almost exactly 24 years ago in Cumaná, capital of the Venezuelan state of Sucre and the oldest living European city on the American mainland (home of the oldest American castle, as well). My father was born in the same Venezuelan state, and my mother was born in the U.S. state of Kansas. I am a citizen of both Venezuela--where I live in Puerto La Cruz, Anzoategui--and the Unites States--where I live in Bloomington, Indiana.

I also have bouts of insomnia, thus this post.

Education and Me (or, Learning My Way)

Education flows through my veins. It's the family business.I grew up with both of my parents working as professors at the university level; my father taught electrical engineering and my mother, a linguist, taught English as a Second Language at the Universidad de Oriente. Nowadays my mother continues working with ESL at the Intensive English Program at Indiana University, and my sister teaches Spanish up in Chicago.

I love learning! That said, however, I can't say the same about the education systems I passed through: some classes were great and really taught me a thing or two, and in some classes I learned despite the teacher.

My experience of education as I was growing up was quite diverse; bouncing back and forth between two different countries, two different languages, two vastly different cultures and education systems ensured that. I have attended both private and public schools, even one all-boys Catholic school; I've been in a school where one classroom held 50 screaming second graders, and a school where the dozen or so kids in my classroom were split between 3 grade levels; I've encountered a wide variety of both inspiring and revolting teachers and classmates; etc.

I'll be honest, though, I was not the ideal student: just ask some of my former teachers (some of who are now my co-workers). In elementary school I was a hyperactive mess. I probably turned in about half of the homework I was assigned in high school, most often late. Some classes I slept or read a book through (though, in my defense, I aced all the tests in those classes more or less effortlessly). I would not wish having me in class--as I was in primary through secondary school--on any teacher.

After graduating from Bloomington High School North in 2000, I took some time away from school because I had a very vivid presentiment that if I continued right on to college I would just crash and burn...that, and my GPA was too low to be accepted into Indiana University here in Bloomington, Indiana. I worked a few jobs, and got some living under my belt before I started taking classes again, part-time at Ivy Tech Community College, also here in Bloomington. The break from school was just what I needed to re-evaluate how I approached my classes, and I have managed to keep a 4.0 GPA so far in my college career.

Although I was very impressed and pleased with the quality of the General Studies classes I took at Ivy Tech--they have some AMAZING teachers--their degree programs are too narrow and focused for someone like me. I want a more general and well-rounded education than they're built to provide. At Ivy Tech you pick a very definite course of study--like say Cisco Networking, or Novell Networking, or Microsoft Networking--and you do not deviate from the required credits for that degree (usually none of which go above the 200 level). There are no real electives beyond the 100 level General Studies courses. This is a beautiful setup for some people, but not me.

I intend to continue my higher education by getting accepted to IU either this coming summer or in the fall. I do not have plans to declare a major too soon (I know, vicariously, the dangers of declaring a major that your heart just isn't into), but rather to take a good variety of introductory level courses from various schools at IU. That said, I expect to study something to do with computing...and I've been told by my mother and my sister that it's useless for me to fight against getting a degree in Education. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up double or triple majoring in different fields.

Like I said, I love learning!

Technology and Me (or, Before Linux)

Technology also runs in my family. My father is a retired electrical engineering professor. His father was the first telegraph operator in the town my father born in. I remember growing up surrounded by all the fascinating, cool gadgetry, and have always felt a pretty strong affinity with technology, especially computers.

One of my earliest memories is the excitement of getting a computer in my room: A four megahertz Epson QX-10 running a version of CP/M (one of DOS's ancestors) or VALDOCS (an Office Suite/Operating System). This thing had a green-screen monitor, and two big 5.25" floppy drives (no hard disk). My dad's computer, the one in the office, was an IBM PC running MS-DOS with an amazing four-color display. Donald Duck's Playground is one of the first games I remember playing. I also spent a LOT of time with the original Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, and later Prince of Persia. (P.S. I've had a lot of fun rediscovering a lot of these old titles recently using dosbox on both Linux and Windows XP. If you remember these days, you should check it out as a good chunk of these titles have become "Abandonware", and available for download from the Internet.)

I learned the very basics of programming with BASIC back then, using MBASIC on the Epson, and GWBASIC on the IBM. I also learned to navigate my way around the DOS command prompt, at times with a little help from Norton Commander. When we eventually got a computer than could run Windows 3.0, a Goldstar 386 "IBM-Compatible", I was pretty impressed with the graphics (Jumping from CGA to SuperVGA was pretty dramatic), but otherwise unimpressed with the environment and kept to the more powerful command line, except for when I had to type up a paper for school using PFS:WindowWorks. I was playing Wolfenstein 3-D in those days, along with Ultima 6: The False Prophet and Ultima 7: The Black Gate.(Again, titles I've had the pleasure of re-discovering thanks to dosbox!)

It was with this Goldstar that I began to discover the world of modems, connecting to Bulletin Board Systems on my trusty 2400 bauder with Procomm. There was a great little Bulletin Board here in Bloomington that was my favorite hang-out, The Good News BBS. When that died, I found the Metropolis BBS, which was actually accesible from any Big Ten or Big Twelve college town. I started chatting with people all over the country and thought that was pretty amazing.

My freshman year of high school, I spent in Venezuela, and my father bought a 686 computer that ran Windows 95. I remember very clearly being pretty upset that the computer didn't boot to a command line by default; I was impressed by the vast improvement of the Windows GUI from 3.0, but it was a memory hog and had a habit of crashing. I saw the trend in Microsoft Operating Systems of distancing the end-user from having control over their computer, and I was NOT happy, but I didn't know there was any alternatives. I mostly played Doom 2 and Duke Nukem 3-D during this time.

With that computer, I discovered the Internet, and that cost my father dearly because we were charged by the hour for Internet service and by the minute for the local phone call. The bill reached over $100/month with as much time as I logged on the web and on IRC. Good times...

Working my way up through Windows 98, NT and XP (I missed ME, thank goodness...), I stayed a Microsoft user. I was the go-to guy among my friends and family when it came to anything to do with computers. I lived and breathed them, so it wasn't too surprising to anyone when I got a job supporting people's use of them...

Back to Bloomington High School North (or, I Meet Linux)

It is late, so I'll save this part for another time...

A request from ME to YOU, dear reader!

I'd like to know a little bit about who all is reading this stuff. Since you made it this far I would greatly appreciate it if you could spare a minute to comment on this entry and let me know who you are, where you're from, where you found me, and maybe a little something about yourself.

I always feel like noone reads my stuff because noone ever comments, so let me know if that's not true!!!

powered by performancing firefox